OSF Medical Group

Chest Tube

A chest tube is a drain inserted through the ribs into the space between the lungs and the chest wall (pleural space) to remove air and/or fluid, which restores the pressure in the lungs. It is typically used after chest surgery or lung collapse.

Preparing for a Chest Tube

Our staff will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have prior to surgery. You may receive a physical examination, including blood and urine tests, to ensure you are in good health for the procedure.

Please make sure to bring a complete list of all medications and herbal supplements you are currently taking with you to your appointment.

Please let our staff know if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Pregnant or suspect you are pregnant
  • Allergic to medications, latex, tape, or anesthetics
  • History of bleeding disorders or are taking a blood thinner, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting

What to Expect

You will be asked to remove any jewelry or objects that interfere with the procedure as well as your clothing; you will be given a surgical gown to wear.

In an emergency situation, a chest tube can be inserted on the spot, whether it be in the field or at the patient’s bedside at the hospital. The area of the chest where the tube will be placed is numbed using a local anesthetic.

The chest tube is then inserted, allowing the lung to re-expand after the fluid or air is removed from the pleural space. The tube will be connected to a container lower than the chest, using gravity to allow the excess fluids to drain.

The chest tube is sutured in place to secure it. Your physician may order imaging to make sure all of the air or fluid has been removed and to ensure the lung has expanded completely. The tube may need to remain in for several days.


When it is time for the tube to be removed, it can be removed in your hospital bed without anesthesia. The sutures holding the tube in place are separated, and the tube is clamped off.

Your doctor will ask you to take a breath and hold it so the tube can be removed. The wound may be closed with sutures and a dressing is applied.

Your physician may order additional imaging after the tube has been removed.

Follow Up

Arrangements for a follow-up appointment with our staff will be made upon discharge.