Air or fluid that collects in the pleural space— the space between your lungs and your chest wall—can cause your lung to collapse. Inflammation, infection, and traumatic injury, among other things, can cause fluid to build up in the cavity. A chest tube is a plastic tube that a health care provider inserts to drain this fluid or air from your chest.
An ultrasound or CT scan will be done to evaluate the amount and location of the fluid. Then the doctor will inject a local numbing medicine at the site where the fluid will be drained. The doctor will guide a small needle through the skin and into the fluid, and the fluid will be sucked out (aspirated) with a syringe. You can also visit centese.com/cardiac-surgery/ to know more about the procedure.
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If it is likely that fluid will continue to accumulate, the doctor will place a drainage catheter, using a live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance. Chest tubes can be inserted at the end of a surgical procedure while you’re still under anesthesia and asleep or at your bedside using pain medication and local anesthesia.
Chest tubes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These tubes are usually connected to a drainage system that collects fluid and allows air to escape from the chest. These systems can allow the air or fluid to drain on its own (passive) or apply suction to draw the air or fluid out.
If a chest drain is needed to drain air, suction, provided by a wall unit, will sometimes be needed to move the air from the pleural space into the container. If a chest drain is needed to drain fluid or blood, suction might not be needed, as the force of gravity might be enough.