General Information:              

  • Description: The collection of fluid within the abdomen is a sign of significant disease. This fluid can be drawn out of the abdomen and analyzed to determine the cause of its accumulation. Possible causes of ascites include liver disease, infection and cancer. At times, the amount of fluid collected may cause problems (discomfort or problems breathing). A large amount of the fluid can be removed in such situations to provide patient relief. A paracentesis is performed by a doctor in an office, at an x-ray facility or at a hospital. The fluid as aspirated via a needle inserted into the abdominal cavity. The fluid is analyzed in a lab to determine its composition. The test can take from 5-45 minutes.
  • Discomfort – Pain at puncture site.
  • Results – 1-3 days.
  • Risks of Procedure – Infection, bleeding, puncture of internal organs by the needle. Blood pressure may fall if too much fluid is removed too rapidly.
  • Other Names – Fluid tap.

Indications for the Test

  • Identify the source or cause of fluid collection within the abdomen.
  • To provide relief of discomfort or shortness of breath related to ascites.


  • Limit food intake for 4 hours before the test.
  • Empty bladder before the test.
  • You might be asked to wear a hospital gown.


  • While lying on your back local anesthesia is given and a needle is inserted into the abdomen. Fluid is then withdrawn and sent to the lab.
  • A CT scan or abdominal ultrasound may be used to guide the needle into the abdomen.

After the Test

  • Dressing is placed over the puncture site.
  • The site is observed for leakage.

Factors Affecting Results

  • Small amounts of fluid may be difficult to sample.


  • The test is simple.
  • The test is relatively safe.
  • The test can provide for relief of discomfort or shortness of breath related to the fluid.


  • Can cause infection of the fluid.
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