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Home > Services > Digestive Health > Digestive Procedures > Abdominal Paracentesis

Abdominal Paracentesis

There are some conditions that can cause fluid to build up in the abdomen. This is called ascites. When fluid builds up, an abdominal paracentesis may be done. With this procedure, a needle is used to remove a sample of fluid or to drain fluid that has built up.



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This is done to find out why there is fluid build-up in the abdomen. Causes may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Diseases of organs, such as the liver
  • Cancer

This procedure may also be done when fluid in the abdomen:

  • Makes breathing difficult
  • Causes pain

Abdominal fluid can return until the condition causing it has been treated. You may need to have the procedure again.


Complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Accidental piercing of structures in the abdomen

The Paracentesis Procedure

Before the Procedure

Your doctor may conduct imaging scans, like MRIs or X-rays.

If the procedure is scheduled and not done on an emergency basis:

  • Do not eat or drink for 12 hours before the procedure.
  • Empty your bladder just before the procedure.
Review information on preparing for the paracentesis procedure (PDF). See these in Spanish (PDF).

During the Procedure

Performed in a clinic, this procedure takes 10-15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed. You will stay awake, with some local anesthesia to numb discomfort.

In most cases, you will lie on your back. The doctor will insert a needle into your abdomen to remove fluid for diagnostic purposes or to provide relief. 

After the Procedure

Rest and follow your doctor's instructions.

Signs of Concern

Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever, chills and abdominal pain
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding or fluid from the paracentesis site
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, feeling faint or chest pain
  • Swelling of the abdomen

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Call 434.243.3090



Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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