Pleural fluid culture
Pleural fluid culture is a test that examines a sample of fluid that has collected in the pleural space to see if you have an infection or understand the cause of buildup of fluid in this space. The pleural space is the area between the lining of the outside of the lungs (pleura) and the wall of the chest. When fluid collects in the pleural space, the condition is called
Culture - pleural fluid
How the Test is Performed
A procedure called
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is needed before the test. A chest x-ray will be performed before and after the test.
DO NOT cough, breathe deeply, or move during the test to avoid injury to the lung.
How the Test will Feel
For thoracentesis, you sit on the edge of a chair or bed with your head and arms resting on a table. The health care provider cleans the skin around the insertion site. Numbing medicine (anesthetic) is injected into the skin.
A needle is placed through the skin and muscles of the chest wall into the pleural space. As fluid drains into a collection bottle, you may cough a bit. This is because your lung re-expands to fill the space where fluid had been. This sensation lasts for a few hours after the test.
During the test, tell your provider if you have sharp chest pain or shortness of breath.
Why the Test is Performed
Your provider may order this test if you have signs of a certain infection or if a
A normal result means no bacteria or fungi were seen in the test sample.
A normal value is no growth of any bacteria. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may indicate:
Empyema(collection of pus in the pleural space)
- Lung abscess (collection of pus in a lung)
Risks of thoracentesis are:
- Collapsed lung (
- Excessive loss of blood
- Fluid reaccumulation
- Pulmonary edema
- Serious complications are uncommon
Blok BK. Thoracentesis. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.
Parta M. Pleural effusion and empyema. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 68.
Review Date: 11/23/2021
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright ©2019 A.D.A.M., Inc., as modified by University of California San Francisco. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Health. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.