Abdominal Paracentesis

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Some conditions cause fluid build-up in the abdomen, called ascites. An abdominal paracentesis procedure uses a needle to remove a sample of the fluid or to drain it completely.

    Fluid in the abdomen can:

    • Make breathing difficult
    • Cause pain

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

    Causes may include:

    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Diseases of organs, such as the liver
    • Cancer
    fluid between abdominal structures
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    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.

    During the Procedure

    Performed in a clinic, this procedure:

    • Takes 10-15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed. 
    • Requires some local anesthesia to numb discomfort

    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.

    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.