• Abdominal Paracentesis

    (Ascites Fluid Tap; Abdominal Tap)


    Ascites is the build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Paracentesis is used to remove a sample of fluid or to drain fluid that has built up.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Reasons for Procedure

    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 or kidneys
    • Cancer
    • Low blood protein
    • Leakage of lymphatic fluid
    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.

    Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Accidental piercing of structures in the abdomen
    Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol use disorder
    • Bleeding disorder
    • Poor nutrition
    • Pregnancy
    • Full bladder
    • Infection in the area where the paracentesis instrument will be inserted
    • Cirrhosis of the liver
    Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Your doctor may do some or all of the following:
    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.


    You will receive local anesthesia. The area will become numb. You will stay awake during the procedure.

    Description of the Procedure

    This is usually done in the doctor's office. In some cases, your doctor may have you go to the hospital before or after this procedure. If you are already in the hospital for a different reason, this procedure will not extend your stay.
    In most cases, you will lie on your back. In some instances, you may need to be in a different position. The area where the needle will be inserted is cleaned with a solution and draped with sterile cloths. An injection of a local anesthetic will be given to numb the area. A needle will be carefully inserted into the abdomen. The fluid will be removed using a syringe.
    The amount of fluid removed depends on your condition. If it is being done to make a diagnosis, the doctor will remove a small amount of fluid and send it for testing. If the procedure is being done to make you feel better, more fluid may be removed.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 10-15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    There will be some stinging or burning while the anesthesia is injected. After the area is numb, you will not feel pain.

    Post-procedure Care

    At the Care Center
    You will stay in the recovery room for a few hours. Your blood pressure and other vital signs will be monitored. If you have a lot of fluid leakage or are having trouble breathing, you may need to stay in the care center.
    At Home
    Follow special instructions on caring for the needle insertion site and watching for signs of infection.

    Call Your Doctor

    It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
    • 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
    If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


    American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org


    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Ascites. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116330/Ascites. Updated July 1, 2014. Accessed October 7, 2016.

    Aslam N, Marino CR. Malignant ascites: new concepts in pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(22):2733-2737.

    Covey AM. Management of malignant pleural effusions and ascites. J Support Oncol. 2005;3(2):169-173.

    Smith EM, Jayson GC. The current and future management of malignant ascites. Clin Oncol. 2003;15(2):59-72.

    6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116330/Ascites: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.

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