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Pleural biopsy and drainage

If you have shortness of breath, chest pain and it cannot be diagnosed then you might need a pleural biopsy.

What is a pleural biopsy and drainage?

The pleura is a double membrane covering the lung. The space between these membranes is called a pleural space. 

If the patient manifests symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, that cannot be diagnosed with other tests, a pleural biopsy is necessary to determine the cause.The biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the lining of the chest.

If there has been a build-up of fluid between the two pleura or a thickening of the membrane (figure 1), then the surgeon will have to drain the space and allow the lung to inflate, also taking a sample of fluid to determine the cause of the build-up.

The tissue and any fluid that your doctor removes will be examined under a microscope to help explain why the fluid has collected and to decide on any further treatment.

Are there any alternatives to a pleural biopsy and drainage?

An x-ray or scan can show that you have fluid and your doctor can drain any fluid using a needle. It is possible to perform a lung biopsy or a transbronchial biopsy.

What does the procedure involve?

A pleural biopsy and drainage usually takes less than twenty minutes. Your doctor may offer you a sedative to help you relax. A local anaesthetic will be injected to numb the biopsy area.

When the area is anesthetised, the surgeon will make a cut and then placing a biopsy instrument through the cut. Your doctor will use a biopsy instrument to take biopsies and drain any fluid.

What are the risks?

No surgical procedure is risk-free, but the risks depend on your overall health before the procedure. Among the risks associated with the pleural biopsy are:

  • Pain
  • Breathlessness, chest tightness or worsening cough
  • Allergic reaction
  • Pneumothorax
  • Bleeding from a biopsy site
  • Infection in the pleural space

Your consultant will explain all the risks before undergoing the procedure.

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after a few hours. A member of the healthcare team will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need. You should be able to go back to work the day after the procedure unless you are told otherwise.

Specialists Offering Pleural biopsy and drainage

Dr Enson Thomas

Consultant Respiratory Physician

MBBS, MD, FRCP, CCST, FCCP

BMI The Manor Hospital 2 more BMI The Saxon Clinic BMI Three Shires Hospital

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Dr Anur Guhan

Consultant Respiratory Physician

MBBS, MD, FRCP FRCPE FCCP

BMI Carrick Glen Hospital 1 more BMI Ross Hall Hospital

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Dr Bhashkar Mukherjee

Consultant Respiratory and General Medicine

Consultant Respiratory and General Medicine

BMI The Blackheath Hospital

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Mr Kit Wong

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon

MB BS, FRCS(C/Th), MS

BMI The London Independent Hospital

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