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Thoracentesis: A Safe Procedure in Mechanically Ventilated Patients

Jeffrey E. Godwin, MD; and Steven A. Sahn, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

Requests for Reprints: Steven A. Sahn, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Godwin: Lima Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates, Inc., 127 North Elizabeth Street, Suite 305, Lima, OH 45801-4345.

Dr. Sahn: Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425.

Ann Intern Med. 1990;113(10):800-802. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-113-10-800
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Thoracentesis has contributed to the diagnosis and management of patients with pleural effusions for almost 150 years (1). More than 90% of thoracenteses provide clinically useful information (2), with major complication rates of up to 14% (2-4). Despite the utility of this procedure, in our institution physicians are reluctant to do thoracenteses in mechanically ventilated patients because they perceive the risk for pneumothorax to be increased. Although positive pressure ventilation is not considered to be a contraindication to the procedure, according to the American Thoracic Society guidelines (5), no available data indicate the safety of using the procedure in this


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