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This procedure carries a few serious risks, but most patients have no complications. If the needle touches the lung it may create an air leak, which is seen on the x-ray and might require you to stay in the hospital for a few days. Some patients with this complication need to have a plastic tube (called a chest tube) inserted between two ribs. The tube uses vacuum pressure to keep the lung expanded until it has healed.

Other risks include bleeding into the fluid space or infection. Rarely, if a large amount of fluid is removed (more than one liter); the rapid pressure changes in your lung as it fills this space can cause some fluid to seep from your bloodstream into your lungs. This is called pulmonary edema. Let your doctor know if you feel shortness of breath following the procedure.

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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