Moving the tube by accident (this could damage tissue around the tube)
Bleeding or infection where the tube is inserted
Buildup of pus
Improper placement of the tube (into the tissues, abdomen, or too far in the chest)
Injury to the lung, which could cause more breathing problems
Injury to organs near the tube, such as the spleen, liver, stomach, or diaphragm
After the Procedure
You will usually stay in the hospital until your chest tube is removed. Patients may occasionally go home with a chest tube.
While the chest tube is in place, your nurses will carefully check for air leaks, breathing problems, and if you need oxygen. They will also make sure the tube stays in place. Your nurses will tell you whether it is okay to get up and walk around or sit in a chair.
What you will need to do:
Breathe deeply and cough often (your nurse will teach you how to do this). Deep breathing and coughing will help re-expand your lung, help with drainage, and prevent fluids from collecting in your lungs.
Be careful there are no kinks in your tube. The drainage system should always sit upright and be placed below your lungs. If it is not, the fluid or air will not drain and your lungs cannot re-expand.
Get help right away if:
Your chest tube comes out or shifts
The tubes become disconnected
You suddenly have a harder time breathing or have more pain
The outlook depends on the reason a chest tube is inserted. Pneumothorax usually improves if the lungs are not sick. In cases of infection, the patient improves when the infection is treated, although sometimes scarring of the lining of the lung can occur (pleural fibrosis).
Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery; Medical Director, CareCore National, Bluffton, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.