A chest tube is a hollow plastic tube that is surgically inserted into the chest cavity to drain air or fluid. Different types of fluid, such as blood, pus, or cancer cells, can accumulate in the chest due to trauma, surgery, cancer, or infection.
Chest tubes are often inserted after lung surgery to remove fluids during healing. They can be inserted during surgery, or with a local anesthetic while you are awake. Complications may include pain, bleeding, infection, or pneumothorax. You can also schedule an appointment for the placing of a surgical chest tube via centese.com/cardiac-surgery/.
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A chest tube may be inserted for several reasons:
- To re-expand the lungs after a pneumothorax- For treatment of a pneumothorax, the tube is inserted into the pleural cavity, the space between the pleura (membranes) that line the lungs.
- After surgery for lung cancer to drain fluids that accumulate in the space that's created after a portion of a lung is removed
- For pleural effusions, both benign and malignant
- After heart surgery, remove fluids that accumulate in the chest.
- If there is a hemothorax (bleeding into the chest), for example, from trauma.
- To drain pus from an empyema (infection or abscess)
When an air leak or fluid accumulation persists despite having a chest tube in place, other procedures may be done to prevent the re-accumulation of fluid or air into the pleural space.