What is Paracentesis?

Fluid that accumulates in the abdominal cavity is termed ascites. It may develop as a result of infection, tumor, or from cirrhosis of the liver. Paracentesis is the procedure which allows needle drainage of the fluid for analysis and comfort.

It is generally performed on an outpatient procedure. The patient is generally lying on their back. The physician will select a site, and the spot will be scrubbed with an antibiotic swab. Local anesthesia is used to numb the skin and underlying tissue. A special needle will cross the abdominal wall into the abdominal space to drain the fluid. A small amount might be obtained for diagnostic purposes, but often much more is removed to relieve any abdominal pressure or distention. In such cases, an intravenous line will be started to maintain blood pressure.

Risks / Complications:

Paracentesis should not be painful, and sedation is not required. There may be some stinging as the local anesthesia is applied. There is a risk of introducing infection or bleeding from the needle, but this is rare. Perforation of the bladder wall or a loop of bowel might occur, but would also be very rare. A few patients may develop a leak of fluid afterwards which should resolve in a day or two. However, paracentesis should be considered a safe and valuable procedure.