Isr Med Assoc J. 2020 Dec;22(12):775-780.
BACKGROUND: Our 1600-bed teaching hospital opened the first physician-led specialist pleural service in Israel in November 2016. Thoracentesis is one of the frequently performed procedures in clinic.
OBJECTIVES: To review the incidence of thoracentesis-related symptoms, complications, and risk factors in a specialist pleural clinic.
METHODS: Prospective analysis was conducted of 658 ultrasound-assisted thoracenteses between November 2016 and November 2019. Data were collected on patient demographics, clinical characteristics, procedural aspects, symptoms, complications, and additional interventions required.
RESULTS: Of the procedures, 24% were accompanied by a reported symptom of any intensity or duration. Cough and chest discomfort were noted in 56.4% and 52% of these cases, respectively. Large-volume drainage was associated with symptoms (P = 0.002). Ultrasound-estimated effusion volume before drainage predicted pain (P = 0.001) and pneumothorax (P = 0.021). Of 8 cases of pneumothorax, 6 were due to non-expandable lung. Two patients were hospitalized (0.3%), and one required a chest drain.
CONCLUSIONS: Symptoms are a common feature of thoracentesis even when performed by experienced operators in ideal settings. Complications, however, are rare when the procedure is performed with bedside ultrasound and attention is paid to patient-reported symptoms and volume drained. Specialist pleural clinics provide a good model for a standardized approach to safe performance of this common procedure.