Key Points About Fluid Aspiration and Drainage

  • A fluid aspiration and drainage is a procedure to remove excess fluid that has built up in the body.
  • You may be a candidate for a fluid aspiration if you have an abnormal collection of fluid in the body, causing severe symptoms.
  • During a fluid aspiration, your doctor will insert a special needle into the fluid pocket and take a sample of fluid to test in a laboratory for infection.
  • You will be allowed to go home a couple of hours after the procedure. Your doctor will ask you to avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours after the procedure.

A fluid aspiration and drainage is a procedure to remove a collection of fluid that is causing significant symptoms. During the procedure, a needle is passed through the skin using a CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound into a collection of fluid.

Your doctor may remove all the fluid during the initial procedure, take a sample of the fluid, or you may be discharged with a drainage catheter in place.

Candidates for Fluid Aspiration and Drainage

A fluid aspiration and drainage may be recommended if you have an abnormal collection of fluid, such as fluid around the lung, that is causing severe symptoms. 

In many cases, your doctor will take a sample of the fluid to examine in the lab. The results of the lab exam will help your doctor determine the most appropriate treatment.

Patients who are taking blood-thinning medicines are not candidates for fluid aspiration.

Risks Associated with Fluid Aspiration and Drainage

While a fluid aspiration and drainage is generally safe, complications can occur. Complications may include:

  • Reaction to local anesthesia.
  • Local bruising.
  • Minor bleeding into the joint.
  • Loss of skin pigment (if cortisone is used).
  • Septic arthritis (rare, yet serious complication).

Preparation for Fluid Aspiration and Drainage

Fluid aspiration and drainage is a relatively simple procedure that does not require much special preparation. Your doctor will minimize your pain by applying topical anesthesia or injecting local anesthesia to the affected area.  

While there may be slight discomfort when the needle is withdrawn from the joint, it is minimized by the topical or local anesthesia that blocks the pain sensation.

What to Expect during Fluid Aspiration and Drainage

Before your procedure, your radiologist may order imaging tests to view the affected area.

Your care team will clean the area with an antiseptic solution and place sterile towels over the area to prevent infection. A local anesthetic is injected into the skin, or a topical anesthetic is applied to the skin. Once the area is numb, your radiologist will inject a needle into the affected area.

Your healthcare provider may take more imaging pictures of the area to confirm the needle is in the correct location. A sample of fluid will be removed and examined to determine if it is an infection.

If the fluid is an infection, your provider may drain all the fluid or insert a catheter into the area to drain the area over a few days.

Duration and Recovery from Fluid Aspiration and Drainage 

After a fluid aspiration and drainage, you will be monitored for approximately two to five hours. You can go home after your care team says it is safe. If you need IV medication during the procedure, you will need a ride home.

Your doctor will recommend avoiding strenuous activities for 24 hours after the procedure. If your pain becomes more severe, notify your doctor as soon as possible.