Fluid aspiration and drainage are procedures that are performed when there is an accumulation of fluid inside the body. Depending on the situation, either a small sample of the fluid is taken or the fluid is completely drained.
What is it?
Many medical conditions may result in significant quantities of liquid collecting in various places in the body. Inflammation, infection, and traumatic injury are just a few of the common reasons why liquid may need to be drained. A small amount of bodily fluid can be aspirated through a needle and syringe. This can be performed many times over a longer period instead of requiring one major drainage surgery. A fluid biopsy can be performed when a fluid does not necessarily have to be removed, but a small sample must be obtained for testing. Drainage is used when there is a large amount of liquid or the liquid is too thick to be extracted with a needle and syringe. The needle or drainage equipment will be guided using X-ray or CT imaging. A general or local anesthetic will also likely be used in both procedures.
What should I do to prepare?
Individuals should not consume food for four to six hours prior to the procedure and may need to avoid certain dietary supplements and medications. Inform your doctor of any medications you are currently taking and if there is any possibility you are pregnant. Your doctor will most likely ask you to stop taking blood thinners and NSAIDs.
What happens during the process?
The site of injection will first be cleaned to avoid infection. Depending on the patient’s age and the type of surgery, either a local or general anesthetic will be applied. Ultrasound, X-ray, or CT images will be taken to locate the accumulation of liquid. Once the needle is inserted, images will be taken again to ensure the needle has been properly placed. If the site is not infected or if the doctor only wants to remove a small amount of fluid, aspiration will likely be all that is needed. However, if more of the liquid needs to be drained, the needle will be replaced for a catheter and the site may be allowed to drain over the next few days. If the cause of the accumulation is not determined, a sample of the drained liquid will be sent to a lab.
What are the risks and potential complications?
Some associated risks and complications include, but are not limited to, anesthetic complications, bleeding and infection (at the incision site), damage to the tissues surrounding the incision site such as veins or arteries, bleeding into the chest, collapse of the lung, and problems with the catheter (such as a blockage developing).
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