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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

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Dr Jonathan Owen

Consultant Respiratory Physician


Sarum Road Hospital

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Dr Abraheem Abraheem

Consultant Physician & Cardiologist


The Alexandra Hospital

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Dr Enson Thomas

Consultant Respiratory Physician


The Manor Hospital 2 more The Saxon Clinic Three Shires Hospital

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Dr Anur Guhan

Consultant Respiratory Physician


Ross Hall Hospital 1 more Ross Hall Clinic Braehead

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Dr Samal Gunatilake

Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine

Bachelor of medicine

Sarum Road Hospital

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