Chest thoracostomy

A thoracostomy is a surgical procedure in which a tube is inserted to drain air from the chest cavity. This is the space outside the lungs, which is also known as the pleural space or pleural cavity. When you have a pneumothorax, air from your lungs can leak into the chest cavity. If this air is removed via a chest tube, the lung can often re-expand on its own, and it may even be able to seal the leak without any other medical intervention. The doctor will determine if this is an option for your pneumothorax.

During a chest thoracostomy, a local anaesthetic may be used to make the process more comfortable for you. A hollow plastic tube is then inserted between your ribs, into the chest area, so it can drain the air from the pleural space around the lungs. A suction device may be used to speed up the draining process. Sometimes this tube will be left in place for a few days until it has been determined that the pneumothorax has resolved and the lung is functioning properly again.

It is not unusual to combine a thoracostomy with another type of treatment, such as pleurodesis.