Though researchers continue to develop new ways to diagnose and treat mesothelioma, there are a number of techniques that have been on the scene for several decades. One such technique, thoracentesis, was developed in the late 19th century and is still used today.
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What’s the problem?
Thoracentesis treatment reduces the fluid associated with pleural effusion, in turn reducing the pressure on the lungs and chest wall. To perform this procedure, a syringe or catheter is inserted into the space between the lung and chest wall, and the fluid is aspirated (or removed).
The needle is normally inserted from the back, between the ribs and into the lung area. A small patch of skin is sterilized and numbing medication is injected into the area where the thoracentesis needle will be inserted. The procedure is short and relatively painless, and complications are rare. The medical terminology used to describe the results of the thoracentesis procedure is “pleural fluid aspiration.”
Thoracentesis can be performed as either a bedside or outpatient procedure. In most cases, the patient sits and leans forward with arms and head supported. A local anesthetic is injected into the skin and deeper tissues until the needle reaches pleural fluid. Then the thoracentesis needle is inserted to this depth, which is the space between the pleural layers, and a catheter tube inserted through the needle. The needle is generally removed to reduce the risk of complications.
Thoracentesis is a relatively safe and painless procedure that removes the fluid buildup of a pleural effusion. Although thoracentesis does not treat or cure mesothelioma, it can be very helpful for diagnosing the underlying cause of the effusion and for dealing with patients’ symptoms. Unfortunately, not every mesothelioma patient is a candidate for thoracentesis. Talk to your doctor to determine whether or not this procedure will be helpful for you.
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