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Abdominal Paracentesis


Abdominal paracentesis is a procedure to remove abnormal fluid buildup in your abdomen. Fluid builds up because of liver problems, such as swelling and scarring. Heart failure, kidney disease, a mass, or problems with your pancreas may also cause fluid buildup.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Before your procedure:

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • Pre-op care: You may be asked to urinate in order to empty your bladder. You are taken to the procedure room and moved to a table or bed. You will need to lie on your back or on your side.
  • Local anesthesia: This medicine makes you more comfortable during your procedure. Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine put into your skin. Local anesthesia is used to numb the procedure area and dull your pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure after you get this medicine.

During your procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider taps on and feels your abdomen to decide where to insert the needle. Your healthcare provider may also use an ultrasound to help decide where to insert the needle. An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of the inside of your abdomen on a TV-like screen. Your healthcare provider cleans your skin and covers the area around the procedure site with a clean sheet. A needle will be inserted into your abdominal cavity. A syringe will be attached to the needle to remove a small amount of ascites fluid. The needle will be removed once your healthcare provider has removed enough fluid for testing.
  • To remove a larger amount of fluid, a needle is inserted into your abdominal cavity. A catheter (small, thin tube) is attached to the needle and the needle is removed. The catheter tubing will be attached to a suction device (gentle vacuum) to help remove the fluid. The fluid will drain into a container attached to the tubing. Removing large amounts of fluid may take up to 6 hours. When your healthcare provider has pulled enough fluid from your abdomen, he will remove the catheter. Your wound (procedure site) will be covered with a bandage. The ascites fluid may be sent to a lab for tests.

After your procedure:

You may need to lie on the side without the wound for up to 2 hours. Lying on your side may prevent fluid leakage from your wound. If the wound leaks and will not stop, your healthcare provider may stitch the area closed. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When healthcare providers see that you are not having any problems, you may be able to go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you may be taken back to your room.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Intravenous fluids and volume expanders: You may need fluids or volume expanders given through your IV after your procedure. These fluids include albumin or saline. Albumin is a protein found in your blood. The IV fluids help prevent a drop in your blood pressure.


  • During abdominal paracentesis, the needle may damage your abdominal organs or blood vessels. After abdominal paracentesis, you may bleed, or remaining ascites fluid may leak out from your wound. You may get an infection in your wound, or in the lining of your abdomen. If a large amount of fluid is removed during your procedure, your blood pressure may become very low. Very low blood pressure may decrease blood flow in your body and make you dizzy or short of breath. You may get a blood clot in your abdomen or lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing, and can be life-threatening. Even with abdominal paracentesis, your kidney or liver function may not improve. Ascites fluid may build up again, and you may need another abdominal paracentesis.
  • If you do not have an abdominal paracentesis, your symptoms may get worse. You may feel short of breath, have abdominal and chest pain, and have trouble moving around. You may not learn why fluid is building up in your abdomen. You may not get proper treatment. You may have bleeding inside your stomach or bowels. Your kidneys may stop working, and your liver problems may get worse. The fluid inside your abdomen may get infected and cause abdominal pain and tiredness. An infection may become life-threatening and you may die. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your procedure, condition, or care.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.