Thoracentesis

I went to a pulmonary doctor today who reviewed my CT scans with me, explained all of the pictures and discussed next steps. The CT scan was quite interesting because my report says there is a “large” amount of fluid around my right lung but I actually saw it on the CT.  Yup, it’s a lot.  I saw my windpipes and the differences between my right and left lung. The doctor estimated that I was only using about 60% of my right lung. How do I not have symptoms?! He suggested my left lung is working hard to compensate for my right. Sheesh.

Without a biopsy, it’s hard to say what is causing the fluid. Cancer is likely but infection and other chemistry related reasons are possible. He showed me where the lining of my lung would typically be inflamed if there was an infection. He also showed me the “opacities” on my CT and explained that they are not of concern. They are quite small but do not appear to be cancer.

So in order to figure out what’s happening, the fluid needs to be sent to a lab. This requires that T word procedure that I can’t pronounce. After a discussion about the procedure risks, I was scheduled for an outpatient procedure this afternoon. 

The procedure itself was quite simple. I sat upright on a hospital bed with my hands on the table in front of me. An ultrasound was used to determine the best location of the fluid on my back and that area was marked. My back was then cleaned and I was numbed with 4 doses of lidocaine via needles into my skin. The doctor numbed the skin first, then continued to go deeper, explaining that the deeper areas tend to be the most painful if not numbed. The needles hurt like a bee sting and the fluid burned going in but nothing unbearable. I joked about needing to hurry up the numbing (referring to the lidocaine working) and the doctor thought I meant him and apologized – oops! We all had a good laugh over that and it helped to move my focus for a bit.

Once numb, a needle and catheter are inserted in between my ribs into the fluid. I could feel the pressure, which wasn’t overly painful but wasn’t exactly pleasant. Then the needle is removed and the fluid begins to drain. I glanced over and saw a bit of fluid in the jar and was surprised at about a quarter of a cup…then it kept going.  900 milileters!! That is just shy of a liter and about 2.2 pounds of fluid. WHAT?! How was that inside of me?! How did I not feel that?! I think I’m still in shock at the amount of fluid…

Once drained, which only took a minute or two, the catheter was removed and the fluid was marked for the lab. They took an xray and once confirmed that there was no fluid and my lung wasn’t punctured, I was all done. There was a bit of a wait before the procedure and waiting for the xray but for an outpatient hospital procedure, everything moved pretty quickly.

They’ll test for just about everything and I should have the results by Monday. The assumption is that it is cancer causing the fluid but we will know soon enough. Even if it comes back negative for cancer, it is still possible that it is caused by cancer and that cancer cells weren’t part of the actual biopsy.  Craziness.

Decisions need to be made but for now, I wait. It’ll be interesting to see the reporting that they do on all of that fluid. I’m so glad it’s drained. That is way too much fluid in my body that shouldn’t be there!

Pictures, if you’re interested! Thankfully he showed me the needle after he was done! Though he only needed about an inch and a half for me. Don’t mind my random look of fascination, awe and a bit of disgust at all that fluid!! 😉

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