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Thoracentesis is a procedure performed to remove excess fluid buildup from the pleural space, which is the area between the lungs and the chest wall. Excess pleural fluid can collect due to varying conditions, including infection, inflammation, heart failure, and disease, and can make breathing labored and shallow.

Using ultrasound, your MIT radiologist will numb the skin and gently insert a needle or small catheter through the chest wall to remove the excess fluid, which may be sent to a lab for testing. When pressure is causing a shortness of breath, removing it from the pleural space usually provides immediate relief and an improved ability to breathe.