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This leaflet is designed to explain what happens when someone requires abdominal paracentesis. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your doctor or nurse.
Ascites is the medical term used to describe the build up of fluid inside the abdominal cavity (tummy). In a healthy person, the body normally produces a small amount of fluid in the abdomen; this is constantly produced and reabsorbed. However, in certain conditions such as liver disease or cancer, there is an imbalance of fluid production and absorption and this causes too much fluid to build up in the abdomen.
We can ease some of the symptoms of ascites by removing the excess fluid in the abdomen. We can do this by:
Abdominal paracentesis usually provides immediate relief of symptoms. Diuretics can take longer to work and can have side effects. People with ascites often require both medications and drainage to manage their symptoms.
After the fluid has drained you will be asked to lie on the bed and the nurse will remove the drain which is quick and painless. A waterproof dressing will be placed over the area and should be kept in place and dry for 48 hours. Your cannula will be removed.
Abdominal paracentesis is a safe procedure with a very small rate of significant complications (less than 1 in 1000 people).
Some of the common risks are:
Rarer complications are:
The procedure is carried out as a day case for most patients. Rarely, you may need to be admitted to the ward if you develop complications. Once the drain is taken out and you feel well, you should be able to return home.
After the procedure the Doctor will let you know if you need to come back to be seen again, or have blood tests with your GP. It is important to know that the fluid in your abdomen may build up again and the procedure may need to be repeated.
If you feel feverish, unwell, notice redness, swelling or pain around the drain site or if you have any other concerns, please seek medical attention.
You can either contact your GP during working hours or attend your local A&E department.
For more information about abdominal paracentesis or the contents of this leaflet, please ask the doctor or nurse performing your procedure.
Useful Contact Number:
Acute Ambulatory Unit 01273 696955 (Extensions: 64608, 64174, or 67511)
This leaflet was produced on behalf of the Departments of Acute Medicine and Digestive Diseases at The Royal Sussex County Hospital, Eastern Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 5BE.
Authors: Dr M Austin and Dr D E Rangedara
This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.
The information here is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.
Publication Date: July 2019
Review Date: January 2023