Chest Drainage

What is chest drainage?

Chest drainage is the removal of excess fluid and/or air from the space surrounding the lung(s).

When does a patient need chest drainage?

Chest drainage may be needed after lung or heart surgery, chest trauma, or when excessive fluid or air builds up in the space outside the lungs (pleural cavity).

How is chest drainage performed?

A chest tube is surgically inserted through the chest wall between the ribs into the pleural cavity. The other end is attached to a chest drainage device, which may provide suction.

What is a chest tube?

A chest tube is small, flexible, plastic tube used in chest drainage and other chest-related procedures. The placement of a chest tube is called a tube thoracostomy.

How long is chest drainage needed?

The chest tube and drainage are necessary as long as the problem that required the tube placement persists. The doctor may order a chest X-ray to confirm that the chest tube is in good position. The chest X-ray also helps the doctor determine if the tube is draining properly.

Does chest drainage hurt?

Yes, the doctor gives numbing medication (local anesthesia) when the chest tube is inserted but there still may be some pain upon insertion. Occasionally, the chest tube may cause discomfort after being inserted. Pain medication may be required. The chest tube may also cause discomfort when it is removed.

Are there any potential complications associated with chest drainage?

Bleeding and infections are rare complications of chest drainage.

A chest drainage unit