About Your Chest Tube Placement

This information describes what to expect when you have a chest tube placed while you’re in the hospital.This is also called a thoracostomy procedure.

A chest tube is a hollow flexible tube placed between your ribs and into the space between the inner and outer linings of your lungs, which is called the pleural space. This procedure is done to drain air or extra fluid from the space around your lungs. The chest tube is held in place with a suture (stitch) and covered with a bandage. Air and fluid drain through the tube into a collection device (large clear plastic container) outside your body. Your nurse will monitor how much fluid and/or air is coming from the tube throughout the day. You will have chest x-rays to monitor how well the tube is working. The chest tube will be removed before you leave the hospital, when your lung is fully expanded and/or is stable.

Before Your Procedure

You will have an ultrasound while you’re in bed to see exactly where the chest tube will be placed.

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During Your Procedure

This procedure is usually done in your hospital room while you’re in your bed. Your healthcare provider will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels throughout the procedure. You may feel discomfort or pain in your shoulder towards the end of the procedure. If you have pain, tell your healthcare provider.

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After Your Procedure

You will have a chest x-ray after the procedure to make sure the tube is in the proper place.

You may feel some discomfort or pain once the numbing medication has worn off. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should take pain medication.

It’s important that the tube does not twist or kink so that the fluid and air can drain properly. Keep the collection device upright and below your chest (See figure). Ask your nurse to help you sit up in a chair or bed. This will help the fluid or air to drain.

You will have a bandage over the site where the tube goes into your body. Keep the bandage clean and dry. Tell your nurse if you notice it becomes wet, loose, or comes off.

Take sponge baths while the chest tube is place. Do not shower.

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • You have severe or worsening shortness of breath
  • The pain on the side of your chest tube is getting worse
  • Your collection device falls over
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