Why do I need a paracentesis?

Your doctor has found that you have fluid in your belly this is called ascites. The provider will do a procedure called a paracentesis to find out why fluid is building up. The provider will use an ultrasound to help them locate the fluid. They will then place a needle or thin, plastic tube into the stomach region to reach the fluid, we can remove a small sample of the fluid for testing. This sample helps the provider to figure out what may be causing the fluid build-up.

If there is too much fluid in your belly, the doctor may also remove some of it to help relieve pressure caused by the fluid. This is very helpful if there is so much fluid that you are in pain or having trouble breathing.

There are common reasons for needing a paracentesis. They include:

  • Recent fluid build-up with no clear cause.

  • To help diagnose an infection.

  • To help diagnose cancer.

  • To remove fluid and help you breathe with less effort.


  • Some of the risks include:

  • Pain – You may feel a poke as the provider inserts the needle into the stomach region. Numbing drugs are used to lessen the pain. Once the needle is in, the pain is often mild and goes away.

  • Bleeding – When the provider inserts the needle, there is a risk of piercing a blood vessel. If this happens, the bleeding is often minor and stops on its own. You may notice a bruise.

  • Bowel injury (perforation) – Rarely, the needle punctures the bowel. Most often, the small hole seals over quickly by itself. If not, the bowel contents can spill into the abdomen and cause an infection. In this case, patients may need surgery.

What to Expect After the Procedure

After the numbing medicine wears off, you may feel some pain at the site. You can to return to your normal routine, as you feel able.