Medical Thoracoscopy

What is a medical thoracoscopy?

A medical thoracoscopy (also known as a pleuroscopy) is a medical examination that allows your doctor to visualise the space between your lung and the chest wall, called the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity allows the best performance of the lungs during breathing.

During the procedure, your doctor will insert a pleuroscope – a thin tube with a camera attachment – through the chest wall.

This procedure typically does not need general anaesthesia. Instead, you will be given conscious sedation that makes you sleepy and relaxed. Sometimes an ultrasound may be used to find the most suitable point for the pleuroscope entry.

Why do you need a medical thoracoscopy?

Your doctor may recommend a medical thoracoscopy to diagnose the cause of the abnormal build-up of fluid in your pleural cavity.

This examination allows your doctor to study your pleural cavity and collect tissue samples (biopsy) to diagnose the cause of the fluid build-up.

Medications can sometimes be sprayed onto the pleural surface during the procedure to stop fluid build-up from happening again (pleurodesis).

Who should not undergo a medical thoracoscopy?

A medical thoracoscopy may not be suitable for people with certain bleeding conditions. Your doctor will discuss with you if you are a suitable candidate for this procedure.

You should also inform your doctor if you have sleep apnea, as it can cause complications.

What are the risks and complications of a medical thoracoscopy?

Although a medical thoracoscopy is a keyhole procedure, it carries some risks and may lead to possible side effects. These include:

  • Pain. Sedatives and pain killers will help relieve any pain or discomfort felt. You may occasionally experience brief episodes of chest pain for a few months after the procedure.
  • Air leaking from the lung into the pleural space. This can cause the lung to collapse (pneumothorax).
  • Bleeding can happen at the incision or biopsy sites, but it usually stops on its own. Inform your doctor if you are on blood-thinning medication.
  • Infection in the pleural space.
  • Allergic reaction to the drugs, equipment or materials used in the procedure.
  • Surgical emphysema, which occurs when air leaks into the tissues under the skin.
  • Pulmonary oedema, which is when your lungs get filled with fluid, causing breathlessness.
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