Chest drainage therapy involves the removal of air, blood, pus, or other secretions from the chest cavity.
Chest drainage therapy is done to relieve pressure on the lungs, and remove fluid that could promote infection. Installing a chest drainage tube can be either an emergency or a planned procedure.
Removing air or fluids from the chest involves the insertion of a tube through the skin and the muscles between the ribs, and into the chest cavity. This cavity is also called the pleural space. Insertion of this tube is called thoracostomy, and chest drainage therapy is sometimes called thoracostomy tube drainage.
Conditions that may need to be treated by chest drainage therapy include emphysema (air in the tissues of the lungs), tuberculosis, and spontaneous pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity) that causes more than a 25% collapse of the lung. Other conditions include cancer that causes excessive secretions, empyema (pus in the thoracic cavity), or hemothorax (blood in the thoracic cavity). Almost all chest drainage therapy is done to drain blood from the chest cavity after lung or heart surgery. In cases where the lung is collapsed, removing fluids by chest drainage therapy allows the lung to reinflate.
Oftentimes an x ray is performed prior to treatment to determine whether the problem is either fluid or air in the pleural space. Sometimes a procedure called thoracentesis is performed in an effort to avoid inserting a chest drainage tube. In this procedure a needle with a catheter is inserted into the pleural space and fluid is removed. When fluid continues to accumulate, chest drainage therapy is usually the next step. This is especially true when there is a lung infection underlying the fluid build-up.
Tish Davidson, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,