Normally, there's little or no fluid between your abdomen and spine. If you have too much fluid in this area (called ascites), you may need to have a paracentesis (abdominal tap) to remove it.

Our gastrointestinal team members are well trained and experienced in paracentesis. They will ensure you have a comfortable experience.

Why it is Done

Sometimes only a little bit of this fluid is removed to help find the cause of the fluid buildup. Causes may include cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, kidney disease, pancreatic disease, a tumor or bowel damage. Other times, a significant amount of fluid is drained to relieve stomach pain caused by the fluid buildup.

What to Expect

Paracentesis is a simple procedure that is done in a hospital, clinic or doctor's office. Usually, it takes just 20 to 30 minutes. It may take longer if you have a large amount of fluid. You won't feel pain because you'll have a shot of numbing medication before your doctor inserts a needle and tube (catheter) into your stomach to remove the fluid. Your doctor may make a little cut on either side of where the needle is inserted so it can go in more easily. In that case, the cut will be closed with a stitch or two. You may need to remain lying down for a while after the procedure.

Paracentesis is a little more complicated if you have a large amount of fluid buildup. It may need to be removed over several appointments. Removing a large amount of fluid can cause your body to go into shock. You may need to have intravenous (IV) fluids during the procedure to keep your blood pressure and other vitals stable. Your health care team will closely check your condition to make sure you're safe.

Possible Risks

Paracentesis is generally safe. There is a very small risk that the needle could break a blood vessel in your stomach, bowel or bladder. Or you could get an infection. Your health care team takes every precaution to make sure the procedure is done safely.

Find an Aurora Health Care GI Specialist