What is it for?

A paracentesis is a procedure to take out fluid that has collected in the belly, called ascites. The fluid is taken out using a thin needle. The fluid is sent to a lab and studied to find the cause of fluid buildup. Paracentesis also may be done to take the fluid out to relieve belly pressure or pain in people with cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.

Why is it done?

Paracentesis may be done to:

  • Find the cause of fluid buildup in the belly.
  • Diagnose an infection in the ascites.
  • Remove a large amount of fluid that is causing pain or difficulty breathing.

Where is paracentesis performed?

This procedure may be done in your doctor's office, an emergency room, the X-ray department of a hospital, or at your bedside in the hospital.

Will it hurt?

You may feel a brief, sharp sting when the numbing medicine is given. When the paracentesis needle is put into your belly, you may feel a temporary sharp pain or pressure.

How to prepare

Before you have a paracentesis done, you should discuss the following with your doctor:

  • medications you are taking including any blood thinners, such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-flammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or warfarin (Coumadin)
  • allergies you have to medications
  • any history of bleeding problems
  • if you are or might be pregnant

What are the risks with paracentesis?

There is a small chance that the paracentesis needle may poke the bladder, bowel, or a blood vessel in the belly.

If a large amount of fluid is removed, there is a small chance that your blood pressure could drop to a low level. This could lead to schock. If you go into shock, IV fluids or medicines, or both, may be given to help return your blood pressure to normal.

There is also a small chance that removing the peritoneal fluid may affect how your kidneys work. If this is a concern, IV fluids and medication may be given during the paracentesis.

Other things to consider

Other blood tests may be done before a paracentesis to make sure that you do not have any bleeding or clotting problems.

You may be asked to sign a consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean.

You may not be able to have the test

A paracentesis may not be helpful or you may not be able to have the test because of:

  • use of blood thinners (anticoagulants) or aspirin, which can increase the chance of bleeding
  • not being able to stay still during the test
  • obesity
  • having scars inside the belly (adhesions) from past belly surgery

After your paracentesis test

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • A fever higher than 100F
  • Severe belly pain
  • Redness or tenderness in your belly
  • Blood in your urine
  • Bleeding or a lot of drainage from the site

Text Size