Pleural Effusion and terrified of chest drain

Hello there! I'm new to this forum and hope you can help. I was admitted to the hospital with a large pleural effusion a few days ago and told I needed a chest drain which could take a couple of days as there's around 2 litres of fluid on my lungs. I suffer badly with anxiety (the biggest wimp!) and immediately had a panic attack. As it's Christmas they decided I could come back in a few days to have it done to mentally prepare myself. I'm going into Southmead hospital in Bristol and they are hugely confident with their abilities to do this procedure as it's a regular occurance on the respiratory ward. They said they will account for how nervous I am (morphine, sedative as well as aneasetic) and were friendly and reassurring. I can't find any experience online that match this pain med course they're offering and have only found accounts where people are saying the chest drain is "painful, traumatic, worse than childbirth!!" And I was not expecting such scary responses. Does anyone have experience with a two day chest drain with morphine and pain care? Is it as traumatic as people say? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel because I've truly terrified myself. Honest and hopefully reassuring comments are welcome to prepare me for what will be likely will be appreciated. The possible underlying cause is pneumonia or in my opinion TB as my ex boyfriend had a collapsed lung a few months after we broke up around 18 months ago from pulmonary TB and as much as I tried to get tested people seem to have always ignored my pleas as it's so hard to catch. But it seems so random an occurrence that it points to this in my opinion. I have read that dealing with the tb infection causes pleural effusions to drain on their own if they're not infected which always gives me hope of recommending that course of treatment.

Your forum seems honest and helpful and non judgement will how terrified I am. And I'd appreciate abd trust any comments you'd have!

Thank you so much, Terri xxx

22 Replies

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  • Hi Terri,

    Why don't you ask them if they will asprate it . Taking the fluid out with a needle into a syringe, (several syringe fulls actually),using the scanner to guide them. I had that done two years ago at the QE in Bham because they thought I was too fragile for a drain. It was totally painless and worked just as well. Good luck.

  • Hi! Thank you fur your response. I've been told the fluid build up is around 2 litres which means it needs draining off gradually over a few days to avoid collapsing the lung. Can an aspirate gradually drain the fluid? Or is it more for smaller effusions? You have given me a light at the end if the tunnel here hopefully and thank you! Xxx

  • I think I had about 1 litre. They did it very gently. I think you should ask them these questions before you let them do anything to you that you are unhappy with. I know I am cynical but I sometimes think that it is easier for them to put the drain in and let it do its job than spend time doing it using the syringe. However, they may be a point about the amount you have. So do talk to them about all of this before going ahead. If you do have the drain I would be grateful for your honest reation to it. I have heard everything from 'didn't hurt at all' to 'excruciating' and would like to know. I am sure that whatever you choose to have done they will look after you. There were so many people with drains when I was in hospital.

  • Thank you so much for this. I have accumulated a lot of questions to potentially avoid a chest drain but if it needs to be done I'll have to grin and bear it. After looking online I definitely agree that I felt a chest drain may be a bit hasty and possibly just easier for them. I'm in not pain, my breathing is actually fine although a little tight when I yawn deeply, so this chest drain seemed so extreme for someone with okay breathing. I will definitely report on the chest drain should I need it and thank you for your advice!xxx

  • They have a responsibility to test you for TB given the circumstances and should also test the fluid they take off.

  • I definitely will be adamant they check this as I hear the effusion will just come back if the underlying issue isn't recified! Thank you for this!xxx

  • TB is a notifiable disease so they have a statutory duty to test. Also there is a related bacteria (mycobacter) which is not notifiable but needs specialised antibiotic. Some of the members on here struggle with it. I was tested for both but luckily was just fighting my usual boggarts, haemophyllus and pseudomonas. Treated with IV meropenem. I do hope all of this has helped with your fears. As you say, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth but it is always best to be fully informed. We are always here for you.

  • Thank you for all you comments! You saying you've heard some people range from painless to excruciating actually helped as I've found no record of painless so that means it could be fine! Hopefully someone will see this post and give an account of a painless experience to put my mind at complete ease! :) xxx

  • Hello

    I had a lung biopsy 4 weeks ago which involved a chest drain. It should have been in for approx 8 hours, but due to my not being very well, was left until the following day (20 hours) in all. Personally, I found it pretty painful and the drain in place makes it difficult to move as movement makes the drain hurt. I know this isn't whatt you hoped to hear and this is only my own experience. More importantly, make sure you get sufficient and correct pain control. I was told I would have self administered intravenous morphine. This was not put in place following surgery, nor was it given after being told by a doctor during the night that he would see it was given. I was then given oral morphine when I could get attention of nurses, which was often too late, as they tell you not to let the pain get back to square one.

    I am telling you this not to frighten you but to make sure get the treatment you need and stick up for yourself if you feel you are not getting what you have been told. What they say at clinic appt is not always reflected on the wards. By the way, once the drain is removed you will feel 100 times better and recovery from the op for me was very swift. Good luck x

  • Thank you for this! Did the morphine help with discomfort? I may make a big deal about getting this to avoid too much pain. On the ward they were very reassuring about pain relief but after you saying this I may ensure they stick to their word! Thank you for you honesty! Can I ask if the whole ordeal was as bad as you expected and was it at least bearable?

    Many thanks again :) x

  • As far as I understand it, the oral morphine is not as effective as the intravenous one. Also, the benefit and idea behind the having it intravenous is that you manage your own pain and therefore you don't get a period of full pain as you press the doze yourself before it becomes unbearable. The other type you have to ask for or get given it along with paracetamol /codeine on the drug round this is not as effective. If your told your getting good pain relief you are entitled to expect it. I was in over a weekend, which tbh I believe is not the best time as staff in minimum.

    If necessity dictated I had to have my procedure again hence another drain I would view it with trepidation, to also would not be so meek. We should not have to fight for good treatment but forewarned is forearmed. I needed to know what was wrong with me. Biopsy showed I have IPF.

    You may find your experience is very different. But please don't be intimidated, stuck up for your own comfort and remember it's not nice but it's only a day or two and then you will be on the way to recovery.

    Lynne x

  • Thank you Lynne! You are right, they said I won't feel any pain and I'll have morphine to manage the pain so I'll hold them to that and make sure I have an IV set up before they come at me with the tubes. Thank you for this otherwise I would have left them to do whatever which may have been bad.

    Also I'm definitely going to ask of there are other option as from the previous comments I feel that there are ways of avoiding this, but should it be the only way then wish me luck x

  • Lynne, I didn't realise you'd gotten your results. How are you doing? Xxx

  • I hope everything goes well for you. My experience of Southmead, at least as an outpatient, is that they listen and are helpful. Make sure you tell them calmly how you feel; you should not be left in pain. I have found, after something like 40 hospital stays, that the majority of staff are very helpful, but they don't always check the notes as well as they should.

  • Thank you! I'm originally from Gloucester so going into Southmead I thought I was in an airport! It's very modern and the nurses were so friendly! The doctor who I spoke to on Thursday about the procedure said he will be there tomorrow morning so I will discuss everything that's been said on here and hopefully that will put my at ease. Thank you :) xxx

  • Hope all goes well for you x

  • Yes, it really is a fantastic place. When I had the bronchoscopy before Christmas I told the doctor I was scared and he gave me moderate sedative and I went out like a light!

  • Oh that sounds very reassuring! It was mentioned twice that a sedative can be used if you're nervous so hopefully that will be the case :D xxx

  • I had VATS done 6 weeks ago and the drain was the most painful part despite pain meds. Demand demand demand pain meds. Don't be a hero and grin and bear it. Once the drain comes out you'll feel a whole lot better though

  • Oh dear :( I will definitely mention that I know it's painful and I need pain meds adamantly! It's frustrating because I don't actually feel bad so the improvement will be slight... so I have very little to look forward to after the ordeal! Wish me luck xxx

  • It's probably long term goals they are looking at, preventing further damage etc. The really good news is, once it's out that's it and pain isn't as bad afterwards. They warned me it would be painful having it taken out but it was fine.

    You will do great. I was terrified, I mean completely terrified and I cooked a hue Xmas dinner for all my family yesterday just 6 weeks post surgery and was back on toddler duty on my own two weeks post surgery. It's temporary...keep focusing on that. And it makes for great photos to freak people out with!! Xxx

  • I've had the chest drain fitted and I'm in hospital (potentially for 7 days :( ) but I just want to say the procedure was completely painless and now it's a little uncomfortable and sore at times but it's completely managable! I hope someone finds this message and can take comfort should they ever require this procedure as I spent days crying because I was so terrified by other responses I read online and it has been fine :) good luck to anyone needing this in the future and think happy lung thoughts! And thank you to everyone for the replies to my message xxxxx

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