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What is paracentesis?

Paracentesis is a procedure in which a needle is inserted through the abdominal wall and into the peritoneal cavity (abdominal cavity). Fluid that collects in this space is called ascites. A small amount of fluid may be removed for testing purposes or a larger amount to relieve pressure and to improve comfort/breathing. Sometimes medications are given into the peritoneal cavity during this procedure.

What You Should Know About This Procedure

  • The doctor or nurse practitioner will explain the procedure and get your consent if he/she has not already done so. Please be sure to discuss any allergies (food or drug including Betadine) you may have with your physician.
  • You may need to urinate before the procedure to empty your bladder.
  • An ultrasound may be performed to establish amount of fluid in the abdomen.
  • You will be assisted into the proper position before the procedure. You may be asked to sit upright, to lie on your back or to lie on your side. In order to facilitate the drainage of fluid, you may be asked to shift positions during the procedure.
  • Your skin will be cleansed at the site with a solution (usually Betadine).
  • A small amount of local anesthetic (usually Xylocaine) is injected in the area to reduce discomfort caused by the needle. The anesthetic may initially cause a burning sensation but within minutes the area should begin to feel numb. During the procedure you may still experience pressure or pain caused by the needle. Please let the doctor know how you are feeling.
  • When the procedure is complete, a small dressing or band-aid will be applied over the site and you will be assisted to a comfortable position. If you received intravenous medication before the procedure to help you relax, you may go home only if accompanied by another adult. Also, you should not operate heavy machinery, drive a car, drink any alcohol or make any important decisions for 12 to 24 hours after the procedure. Your physician will let you know when you may resume your regular activities.
  • Please inform your doctor if any of the following occur: pain, swelling, drainage or bleeding from the site, decreased urination, lightheadedness, weakness, fevers, abdominal pain.