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What is paracentesis?

Paracentesis, which is a procedure that drains excess fluid from the abdomen through a needle, was recommended in a respected cardiology text published in 1932.

Samuel M. Warren, MD
Anesthesiology
Paracentesis is the procedure to drain ascites (abnormal accumulation of fluid in a person's abdominal cavity) through a needle.  We might do this for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes:  

A diagnostic paracentesis is performed to determine the cause of ascites and if the ascites is infected.  Here, the ascites fluid collected is cultured for microbes and sent to the lab for cell counts and other biochemical and microscopic tests.  

A therapeutic paracentesis is performed when the accumulation of ascites fluid is so great that it is uncomfortable for the patient and interfering with the function of the other organs in the abdomen and near the abdomen.  Here, the goal is to remove multiple liters of ascites fluid.

For your safety and comfort, we first administer a numbing medicine to the sight of the procedure, and we use an ultrasound probe to help guide the needle safely to the ascites fluid. 
A paracentesis is a procedure in which fluid is taken from the abdominal cavity. This is done to relieve pressure on your:
  • Diaphragm -- to help you breathe easier
  • Stomach -- which may improve your appetite
After the procedure, the fluids can be examined in the laboratory. Your doctor will use the information from these studies in your diagnosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.