Chest Tube

What is a chest tube?

A chest tube is a hollow tube placed between the lung and the chest wall (pleural space). The chest tube provides a way to drain air, blood or other fluids that may have accumulated in the pleural space. The pleural space normally has a small amount of fluid within it.

When is chest tube used?

A chest tube is used when the patient has air or fluid in the pleural space that needs to be removed.

Does use of a chest tube hurt?

The chest tube insertion causes discomfort. Before placing a chest tube, the doctor uses a local numbing medication at the point of insertion. The doctor makes an incision (skin cut) at the site of the chest tube insertion and then the chest tube is placed into the pleural space. Once in place, the chest tube rarely causes discomfort.

How long is chest tube used?

The chest tube may be needed for a short or long period of time depending on the patient's condition.

Are there any potential complications associated with use of a chest tube?

The potential complications associated with the use of a chest tube include bleeding, infection and poor positioning of the chest tube within the pleural space. After placing a chest tube the doctor will check a chest x-ray to assure that the tube is in the correct position. If the chest tube is not in the right position, it may need to be replaced.

Chest Tube coming from left side of chest