Paracentesis (Ascitic tap)

Paracentesis or 'ascitic tap' is a medical procedure where a needle is used to drain fluid that is trapped in the abdomen. Ultrasound is used to locate the fluid.

Paracentesis (Ascitic tap)

Paracentesis or 'ascitic tap' is a medical procedure where a needle is used to drain fluid that is trapped in the abdomen. Ultrasound is used to locate the fluid.

What is a paracentesis?

Paracentesis is a medical procedure where a needle is used to drain fluid that is trapped in the abdomen. Fluid may have to be drained from the abdomen for different reasons, such as if the fluid is stretching the abdomen and causing pain; if the fluid is infected; or if a doctor needs to analyse the fluid in a laboratory for the presence of any disease. Other names for a paracentesis is ‘ascitic tap’, ‘abdominocentesis’, ‘paracentesis of the abdomen’ or ‘ascitic drain’.

How do I prepare for a paracentesis? keyboard_arrow_down

You may be asked to fast before the procedure. 

If you take blood thinning medications such as warfarin, you will need to stop taking them for several days before having the paracentesis. This period can range from five days to ten days if you are taking Clopidogrel/Asasantin. Your referring doctor will advise you about this. Aspirin does not need to be stopped before you have the procedure. 

Special blood tests are recommended for all patients with liver disease. Your referring doctor will arrange this before you have the paracentesis.

What happens during a paracentesis? keyboard_arrow_down

You will be asked to lie on your back on a bed and your abdomen will be wiped clean with antiseptic liquid. 

The radiologist will use ultrasound to locate the fluid in the abdomen. A small area of skin on your abdomen will then be made numb using local anesthetic. A needle will be inserted through the numb patch of skin. The needle is used to insert a thin plastic drain tube into the fluid area. This drain tube allows the fluid to drain out of the body into a sealed plastic bag. Once enough fluid has been removed, the tube is carefully removed by a nurse or radiologist. Removal of the tube only takes a couple of seconds and no stitches are required.

How long does a paracentesis take? keyboard_arrow_down

The whole procedure, including the ultrasound scan to locate the fluid and insertion of the drain tube can take between 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the drain tube is in place, you will have to wait for the fluid to drain. This may take 15-30 minutes depending on the amount of fluid to be drained and how fast it drains. 

You will be allowed to go home once the fluid has drained out and the drain tube has been removed.

Are there any after effects of a paracentesis? keyboard_arrow_down

There are no after effects from this procedure. However the removal of fluid from your abdomen should make you feel more comfortable than before the procedure. 

You should avoid swimming or any strenuous activities for at least five days following the procedure to allow the wound to fully heal. Occasionally, fluid may leak out of the wound under the dressing. It is important to keep the wound clean and covered with a dressing until it is dry.

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