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What is Paracentesis?

Paracentesis is a procedure that removes abdominal fluid buildup known as ascites. This buildup may result from infection, inflammation, injury, or issues. The ascites is removed with a long, thin needle that is inserted through the belly. The fluid is sent to a lab to determine the cause. Paracentesis can also remove fluid and relieve abdominal pressure or pain in people with cancer or cirrhosis.

Why is it Done?

Paracentesis is conducted to:

  • Determine what is causing abdominal fluid buildup.
  • Diagnose infection in the peritoneal fluid.
  • Check for cancer, such as liver cancer.
  • Remove fluid that is causing pain or difficulty breathing or affecting kidney or the bowel function.
  • Check for damage after an abdominal injury.

How to Prepare?

Before paracentesis is done, make sure you let your doctor know if:

  • You are on medication.
  • You have bleeding problems or take blood thinners, such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or warfarin (Coumadin).
  • You have medical allergies, including anesthetics.
  • You are, or might be, pregnant.

Other blood tests may be done before the paracentesis to make sure you do not have bleeding or clotting problems. You will also be asked to sign a consent form.

What Does Having a Paracentesis Feel Like?

When the numbing medicine is given, you may feel a brief sting. When the paracentesis needle is inserted into your abdomen, there may be a temporary sharp pain or pressure.

If a great deal of fluid is removed, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. Tell your doctor if you feel unwell during the test.

Following the procedure, clear fluid may drain from the site, especially if a large amount of fluid was removed. The drainage should decrease in a couple of days. A small gauze pad and bandage might be needed. Ask your doctor how much drainage is expected.

Patient After Procedure

After the Test

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • A Fever Over 100º F (38º C)
  • Further Abdominal Redness or Pain
  • Severe Belly PainSevere Belly Pain
  • Blood in Your Urine
  • Bleeding or Intense Drainage From the Site


Following paracentesis, the fluid taken from your abdomen is sent to a lab to be studied and looked at under a microscope. Most results are available within the same day.