What are Thoracocentesis?

Thoracocentesis is a procedure which is used to diagnose conditions of the chest cavity. It can also relieve effusion, or a buildup of fluid, in the chest. Thoracocentesis is minimally invasive and does not usually require the use of anesthesia or sedatives. It’s very effective for diagnosing chest conditions, and is often a life-saving procedure. Dogs diagnosed with fatal conditions of the chest cavity are more likely to have a grave prognosis if thoracocentesis is not performed.

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Thoracocentesis Procedure in Dogs

Dogs will not need to be anesthetized for this procedure. Sedatives may be administered to dogs that are unruly, although most dogs are able to tolerate the procedure.

  1. An ultrasound will be performed prior to thoracocentesis.
  2. Oxygen will be administered in lieu of anesthesia. An assistant is required to restrain the dog.
  3. The chest is cleaned, and clipped.
  4. If the procedure is diagnostic, local anesthesia will be administered.
  5. The area in which the needle is inserted will vary based on the location of the effusion and whether or not air or gas is present in the pleural cavity.
  6. A needle and syringe are inserted between the selected ribs and into the pleural cavity.
  7. The plunger is pulled back, drawing the fluid, air, or gas into the syringe.
  8. The sample is transferred to a vial.
  9. Extension tubing is then attached to the syringe to drain the fluid from the thoracic or pleural cavity.
  10. Once the fluid has been drained, the needle is withdrawn and an x-ray is taken.
  11. The sample is sent to a histologist for examination.

Efficacy of Thoracocentesis in Dogs

Thoracocentesis is very effective in diagnosing conditions of the thoracic cavity in dogs. It is a safe procedure that presents few complications and requires no special equipment. Thoracocentesis often makes the difference between life and death in dogs with severe disease.

Thoracocentesis Recovery in Dogs

Because it is minimally invasive and does not require anesthesia, dogs will not need to recover from thoracocentesis. Owners should monitor their dogs carefully for signs of postprocedural complications. If owners notice any unusual behavior or symptoms, they should contact their veterinarian immediately. 

Results from histological examination usually come back within two days. The veterinarian will then inform the owner of the diagnosis and plan a treatment regimen. Follow-up appointments will be scheduled to administer the appropriate treatment.

Cost of Thoracocentesis in Dogs

The cost of thoracocentesis will vary based on standards of living, additional costs incurred, and whether or not the procedure is diagnostic or therapeutic. The price of thoracocentesis, inclusive of other diagnostic tests and treatment costs, ranges from $1,200 to $6,000.

Dog Thoracocentesis Considerations

Thoracocentesis should not be performed on dogs diagnosed with pneumomediastinum, diaphragmatic hernia, or masses in the pleural cavity.

Complications, although rare, are possible. These may include:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Hematoma: The accumulation of clotted blood outside of a blood vessel.
  • Pneumothorax
  • Laceration of the artery
  • Low blood pressure

Complications may or may not be attributed to the expertise of the veterinarian.

Thoracocentesis Prevention in Dogs

Diseases of the thoracic cavity can sometimes be difficult to prevent. Owners should ensure their dogs do not engage in hazardous activities that may cause significant trauma to the chest cavity. These include falling from heights and being hit by a car.