Abdominal Paracentesis

(Ascites Fluid Tap; Abdominal Tap)


Abdominal paracentesis removes extra fluid from the belly. A needle is inserted into the belly to draw the fluid out.

Ascites—Fluid Build up in Belly

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Reasons for Procedure

Ascites is the build-up of fluid in the belly. This may be done to:

  • Take out a sample of fluid for testing to find a cause
  • Drain the fluid out
  • Ease breathing problems
  • Ease pain

The fluid may return if the cause has not been treated. You may need to have this done again.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to nearby structures

Your chances of problems are higher for:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do:

If the procedure is scheduled (not an emergency):

  • Don't eat or drink for 12 hours beforehand.
  • Empty your bladder just before the procedure.


You will receive local anesthesia. You will be awake, but the area will be numb.

Description of the Procedure

The area where the needle will be placed is cleaned. A drape will be put over the area. The numbing medicine will be injected nearby. A needle will be carefully inserted into the belly. The fluid will be drawn out through the syringe.

The amount of fluid that is removed will depend on your needs. A sample of fluid may be sent for testing. If you still have problems, more fluid will be removed until you feel better.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10-15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed

How Much Will It Hurt?

The anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. Medicines will help ease pain afterwards.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You will stay in the recovery room for a few hours. Your blood pressure and other vital signs will be watched. If you have a lot of fluid leakage or are having trouble breathing, you may need to stay in the care center.

At Home

You will be able to return to normal activities. You will need to check on the insertion site to watch for signs of infection.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Fever or chills
  • Belly pain
  • Redness, swelling, pain, bleeding, or fluid leaking from the needle site
  • Pain that you can’t control with the medicines you were given
  • Coughing, breathing problems, feeling faint, or chest pain
  • Your belly starts to swell up

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Cancer Society
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology


Ascites. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116330/Ascites . Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2018.
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6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116330/Ascites : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 8/14/2018

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