How should the pleural fluid drainage be monitored in pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs)?

Updated: Dec 28, 2018
  • Author: Kamran Boka, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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Record the amount and quality of fluid drained and monitor for an air leak (bubbling through the water seal) at each shift. Large air leaks (steady streams of air throughout the respiratory cycle) may be indications of loose connectors or of a drainage port on the catheter that has migrated out to the skin. Consequently, dressings should be taken down and the position of the catheter inspected at the puncture site. Alternatively, they may indicate large bronchopleural fistulae.

Briefly clamping the catheter at the skin helps to determine whether the air leak is originating from within the pleural cavity (in which case, it stops when the tube is clamped) or from outside the chest (in which case, the leak persists).

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