Preparation, Procedure and Complications of Paracentesis

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What Is Paracentesis?

Paracentesis is a procedure that involves the removal of accumulated fluid in the belly. This is known as peritoneal fluid and the buildup of fluid is referred to as ascites. This may be caused due to inflammation, infection, injury, cancer or cirrhosis. The fluid is extracted from the belly by inserting a thin long needle. The fluid is then analyzed in a laboratory. This procedure may also be conducted to alleviate pressure in the belly, especially in individuals with cirrhosis or cancer.


Abdominal paracentesis is done to determine the cause of fluid accumulation in the belly. Infections within the peritoneal fluid may also be diagnosed through this method. Specific cancers such as liver cancer may even be diagnosed. Build up of excess fluid may cause pain, breathing problems or disruptions in kidney and bowel functions. Removal of this fluid through a paracentesis helps to relive these conditions. Damage caused due to abdominal injury can also be detected through a paracentesis.


Prior to a paracentesis the doctor must be informed regarding the intake of any medication, allergies to any medication, including anesthetics, bleeding problems or intake of medications for blood thinning and pregnancy. Before a paracentesis other blood tests may be conducted to rule out possibilities of bleeding or coagulation problems. The bladder must be emptied prior to the procedure.


The procedure may be conducted in the doctor’s office, emergency room or hospital. If the removal of a large amount of fluid is necessary, then the individual may be asked to lie on the back with his head raised. If a smaller amount of fluid needs to be taken out, the individual may be made to sit up. The site of the procedure is sterilized and numbed using a local anesthetic. The needle is slowly inserted into the belly and the fluid is drawn out. The area is then bandaged and the individual’s pulse rate, temperature and blood pressure is taken. The weight and measurement around the belly may also be taken.


In some cases following a paracentesis, complications may arise such as puncture of a blood vessel, bladder or bowel. If the peritoneal fluid contains cancer cells, these cells may spread through the belly. When large amounts of fluid are extracted, the blood pressure may drop.

Abnormal test results may be indicative of inflammation or cancer. A culture of the fluid may be done to determine the presence of microorganisms that may be causing infection.