Paracentesis is a procedure used to remove excess fluid from the belly (abdomen). Excess fluid in the belly is called ascites. Excess fluid can be the result of certain conditions, such as infection, inflammation, abdominal injury, heart failure, chronic scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), or cancer. The excess fluid is removed using a needle inserted through the skin and tissue into the abdomen.

A paracentesis may be done to:

  • Determine the cause of the excess fluid through examination of the fluid.

  • Relieve symptoms of shortness of breath or pain caused by the excess fluid.

  • Determine presence of bleeding after an abdominal injury.


  • Allergies.

  • Medications taken including herbs, eye drops, over-the-counter medications, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medicine.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

  • History of blood clots (thrombophlebitis).

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems.


  • Injury to an abdominal organ, such as the bowel (large intestine), liver, spleen, or bladder.

  • Possible infection.

  • Bleeding.

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).


This is a procedure that can be done as an outpatient. Confirm the time that you need to arrive for your procedure. A blood sample may be done to determine your blood clotting time. The presence of a severe bleeding disorder (coagulopathy) which cannot be promptly corrected may make this procedure inadvisable. You may be asked to urinate.


The procedure will take about 30 minutes. This time will vary depending on the amount of fluid that is removed. You may be asked to lie on your back with your head elevated. An area on your abdomen will be cleansed. A numbing medicine may then be injected (local anesthesia) into the skin and tissue. A needle is inserted through your abdominal skin and tissues until it is positioned in your abdomen. You may feel pressure or slight pain as the needle is positioned into the abdomen. Fluid is removed from the abdomen through the needle. Tell your caregiver if you feel dizzy or lightheaded. The needle is withdrawn once the desired amount of fluid has been removed. A sample of the fluid may be sent for examination.


Your recovery will be assessed and monitored. If there are no problems, as an outpatient, you should be able to go home shortly after the procedure. There may be a very limited amount of clear fluid draining from the needle insertion site over the next 2 days. Confirm with your caregiver as to the expected amount of drainage.

Obtaining the Test Results

It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Do not assume everything is normal if you have not heard from your caregiver or the medical facility. It is important for you to follow up on all of your test results.


  • You may resume normal diet and activities as directed or allowed.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.


  • You develop shortness of breath or chest pain.

  • You develop increasing pain, discomfort, or swelling in your abdomen.

  • You develop new drainage or pus coming from site where fluid was removed.

  • You develop swelling or increased redness from site where fluid was removed.

  • You develop an unexplained temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or above.