What is Paracentesis?
Inside the abdomen, there is a space that separates the intestines from the other organs, called the peritoneal space.
Usually there is only a very small amount of fluid in this space, but in certain conditions, a large amount of fluid can gather. These conditions include liver disease, heart failure and others. Paracentesis is a procedure to remove some of the peritoneal fluid, which is also known as ascites. Paracentesis may be done to identify the disease condition causing the ascites, or to relieve the discomfort from having a large amount of fluid in the peritoneal space. Sometimes ascites can become infected, causing fever and abdominal pain.
How should I prepare?
Very little preparation is needed. Blood tests may be done to check your blood-clotting. Please inform your doctor about allergies to medications or latex gloves.
How is the procedure performed?
Ultrasound is used to determine where the peritoneal fluid is present, and a safe path for needle placement avoiding bowel and other organs. Local anesthetic is placed along the intended needle path and a needle with a plastic sheath is advanced into the fluid. The needle is removed, and the fluid is aspirated through the sheath. After the desired amount of fluid has been removed, the plastic sheath will be removed and a dressing applied. No stitches are necessary.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
The local anesthetic is likely to sting briefly, but otherwise the procedure should be painless. You will be able to return to normal activities immediately.
How will I get the results of this test?
Diagnostic tests being done on ascites fluid take only one or two days, and the results will be available to your ordering physician.
What are the benefits and risks?
Paracentesis is a safe and effective way to diagnose the cause of ascites, and also to relieve the discomfort of large amount of peritoneal fluid. It is a very accurate way to identify infected fluid, and the correct antibiotic that may be necessary. When ultrasound is used to identify a safe entry point and monitor the needle placement, the only risk is a very small (less than 1 percent) likelihood of internal bleeding requiring a transfusion.
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