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Abdominal Paracentesis Procedure

Submitted by Nic on November 9, 2012

Ascites is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity. An abdominal paracentesis procedure is performed to obtain a sample of the fluid to determine the causes for the increased amount of fluid in the peritoneal or abdominal cavity. When pain and breathing difficulty are noticed because of the fluid buildup, the abdominal paracentesis technique may be used to ease the pain by removing the excess fluid. Doctors may use their stethoscopes and ultrasound or other imaging techniques to determine the extent of the fluid accumulation before they recommend an abdominal paracentesis surgery to drain the fluid.

In an abdominal paracentesis procedure, fluid that is collected is analyzed to find out the cause of the accumulation of fluid and to check for any organ malfunction or infection. Bile in the fluid could indicate problems with the gall bladder. Cirrohsis or pertitonitis could be indicated by a high white blood cell count in the fluid. Blood in the fluid is caused generally by some trauma or injury to the inner organs. A milky fluid could mean that the patient suffers from tuberculosis or has a carcinoma or a lymphoma. Analysis of the fluid will include total protein and albumin, red and white blood cell count, gram and acid fast bacillus stain, amylase, serum and serum albumin, bacterial, viral and fungal culture, cytology and other chemistries.

Unlike needles used for collecting blood, the abdominal paracentesis procedure needle is larger in diameter, and so before it is inserted, local anesthesia is given to the patient. Very little of the fluid is removed for diagnostic purposes, though in cases of distress due to fluid accumulation, draining the fluid is also done to ease the pressure on the internal organs like kidneys. If the quantity of fluid drawn is more than five liters, the patient is often given serum albumin intravenously to ensure that the blood pressure does not fall below a safe level. The risks involved in abdominal tapping, as paracentesis is often called, include unintended perforation of a blood vessel, bowels, or the bladder. Patients can normally go home after a couple of hours in the recovery room. Soreness at the site is common, and the patient needs to rest at home for a day or two. However, symptoms such as fever, swelling in the abdomen, light headedness or shortness of breath should be reported to the doctor immediately as it could point to complications.

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