Abdominal paracentesis uses a needle to remove fluid from the belly.
Ascites—Fluid Build up in Belly
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Reasons for Procedure
Ascites is the build-up of fluid in the belly. This procedure may be done to:
- Take out a sample of fluid for testing to find a cause
- Drain excess fluid
- Ease breathing problems
- Ease pain
This may need to be repeated. Fluid may return if the cause has not been treated.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Blood clots
- Damage to nearby structures
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
If the procedure is not being done to provide emergency care, the care team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
- Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
- Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as imaging tests
Local anesthesia will be used. The area will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
A numbing medicine will be injected. Imaging may be used to help guide the needle and insert it into the belly. Fluid will be drawn out through the needle. The amount of fluid that is removed depends on why the procedure is being done.
A sample of fluid may be sent for testing.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common at the needle insertion site. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
Most people can go home the same day. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Care Center
You may be given pain medicines.
Most people can go back to normal activities in 24 hours. It depends on the reason why the fluid was removed.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, bleeding, or fluid leaking from the needle site
- Pain that you cannot control with medicine
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Ascites. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ascites. Accessed November 23, 2020.
Piano S, Tonon M, et al. Management of ascites and hepatorenal syndrome. Hepatol Int. 2018 Feb;12(Suppl 1):122-134.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 4/16/2021