Chest Drainage Systems

Sometimes unusual amounts of fluid gets collected around the lungs, this condition is known as pleural effusion. Pleura is a membrane that lines the lungs and the chest wall outside the lungs. In pleural effusion fluid builds up in the layers of pleura. Many medical conditions may lead to pleural effusion. Along with chest drainage the treatment will revolve around the underlying medical condition.

Causes of pleural effusion (chest drainage):

  • Leakage from other organs: congestive heart failure can cause liquid build up in the chest as heart is not able to pump the blood properly. Other organs like the liver or kidney can also cause the fluid buildup sometimes.
  • Cancer: lung cancer or other types of cancer that spread to the lungs may cause buildup. 
  • Pneumonia or tuberculosis.
  • Autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Pulmonary embolism: This is a medical condition in which an artery or a lung is blocked.


A chest drain tube also called the thoracic catheter is a flexible tube made of plastic that is inserted through chest wall into the pleura in order to remove air, fluid or pus from the thoracic cavity. These tubes are also called the intercostal catheters. The chest tube is hollow and flexible in nature and acts as a drain for removing blood, fluid or air from the lungs, heart or esophagus. This tube is placed in between the inner and the outer lining of the chest cavity called the pleural space through an incision about 1 inch long in between your ribs. The tube is then guided to the correct spot. The other end of the chest drainage tube is attached to a special suction canister which allows the fluid to enter the tube and eventually out of the body. A tape is used to secure the tube in place. A chest x-ray is taken to ensure that the tube has reached the intended spot. The chest tube remains in place until all the unnecessary fluid is drained out. It can be removed easily after the procedure. These tubes are also used during major lung or heart surgeries to remove the unwanted drainage out of the body.


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