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Related to paracentesis: abdominal paracentesis




Paracentesis is a procedure during which fluid from the abdomen is removed through a needle.


There are two reasons to take fluid out of the abdomen. One is to analyze it. The other is to relieve pressure.
Liquid that accumulates in the abdomen is called ascites. Ascites seeps out of organs for several reasons related either to disease in the organ or fluid pressures that are changing.

Liver disease

All the blood flowing through the intestines passes through the liver on its way back to the heart. When progressive disease such as alcohol damage or hepatitis destroys enough liver tissue, the scarring that results shrinks the liver and constricts the blood flow. Such scarring of the liver is called cirrhosis. Pressure builds up in the intestinal circulation, slowing flow and pushing fluid into the tissues. Slowly the fluid accumulates in areas with the lowest pressure and greatest capacity. The free space around abdominal organs receives most of it. This space is called the peritoneal space because it is enclosed by a thin membrane called the peritoneum. The peritoneum wraps around nearly every organ in the abdomen, providing many folds and spaces for the fluid to gather.


Peritonitis is an infection of the peritoneum. Infection changes the dynamics of body fluids, causing them to seep into tissues and spaces. Peritonitis can develop in several ways. Many abdominal organs contain germs that do not belong elsewhere in the body. If they spill their contents into the peritoneum, infection is the result. The gall bladder, the stomach, any part of the intestine, and most especially the appendix—all cause peritonitis when they leak or rupture. Tuberculosis can infect many organs in the body; it is not confined to the lungs. Tuberculous peritonitis causes ascites.

Other inflammations

Peritoneal fluid is not just produced by infections. The pancreas can cause a massive sterile peritonitis when it leaks its digestive enzymes into the abdomen.


Any cancer that begins in or spreads to the abdomen can leak fluid. One particular tumor of the ovary that leaks fluid, the resulting presentation of the disease, is Meigs' syndrome.

Kidney disease

Since the kidneys are intimately involved with the body's fluid balance, diseases of the kidney often cause excessive fluid to accumulate. Nephrosis and nephrotic syndrome are the general terms for diseases that cause the kidneys to retain water and provoke its movement into body tissues and spaces.

Heart failure

The ultimate source of fluid pressure in the body is the heart, which generates blood pressure. All other pressures in the body are related to blood pressure. As the heart starts to fail, blood backs up, waiting to be pumped. This increases back pressure upstream, particularly below the heart where gravity is also pulling blood away from the heart. The extra fluid from heart failure is first noticed in the feet and ankles, where gravitational effects are most potent. In the abdomen, the liver swells first, then it and other abdominal organs start to leak.

Pleural fluid

The other major body cavity is the chest. The tissue in the chest corresponding to the peritoneum is called the pleura, and the space contained within the pleura, between the ribs and the lungs, is called the pleural space. Fluid is often found in both cavities, and fluid from one cavity can find its way into the other.
Fluid that accumulates in the abdomen creates abnormal pressures on organs in the abdomen. Digestion is hindered; blood flow is slowed. Pressure upward on the chest compromises breathing. The kidneys function poorly in the presence of such external pressures and may even fail with tense, massive ascites.


During paracentesis, special needles puncture the abdominal wall, being careful not to hit internal organs. If fluid is needed only for analysis, just a bit is removed. If pressure relief is an additional goal, many quarts may be removed. Rapid removal of large amounts of fluid can cause blood pressure to drop suddenly. For this reason, the physician will often leave a tube in place so that fluid can be removed slowly, giving the circulation time to adapt.
A related procedure called culpocentesis removes ascitic fluid from the very bottom of the abdominal cavity through the back of the vagina. This is used mostly to diagnose female genital disorders like ectopic pregnancy that bleed or exude fluid into the peritoneal space.
Fluid is sent to the laboratory for testing, where cancer and blood cells can be detected, infections identified, and chemical analysis can direct further investigations.


An adhesive bandage and perhaps a single stitch close the hole. Nothing more is required.


Risks are negligible. It is remotely possible that an organ could be punctured and bleed or that an infection could be introduced.

Normal results

A diagnosis of the cause and/or relief from accumulated fluid pressure are the expected results.

Abnormal results

Fluid will continue to accumulate until the cause is corrected. Repeat procedures may be needed.



Glickman, Robert M. "Abdominal Swelling and Ascites." In Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, edited by Anthony S. Fauci, et al. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Key terms

Ectopic pregnancy — A pregnancy occurring outside the womb that often ruptures and requires surgical removal.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


surgical puncture of a cavity for the aspiration of fluid. adj., adj paracentet´ic.
abdominal paracentesis insertion of a trocar through a small incision and into the peritoneal cavity to remove ascitic fluids or inject a therapeutic agent. This is most often done to remove excess fluid in a patient with cirrhosis of the liver. Called also abdominocentesis and peritoneocentesis.

Before the procedure the patient is instructed to empty the bladder to reduce the danger of accidental puncture of the bladder. The skin below the umbilicus and overlying the rectus muscle is cleansed with an antiseptic. A local anesthetic is used to anesthetize the skin and underlying tissues at the site of insertion of the trocar. During the procedure the patient may be placed in a sitting position with the feet resting on a foot stool or on the floor. The back and arms should be well supported. The container for collecting the drainage is placed at the patient's feet. As the fluid is being withdrawn the patient is observed for symptoms of fainting or shock.

The amount and character of the fluid obtained are recorded and a specimen is saved if the physician requests laboratory examination of the fluid. After the trocar is removed a sterile dressing is applied to the site. A more permanent procedure for relief of accumulations of excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity is insertion of a peritoneovenous shunt.
Client position for paracentesis. From Lammon et al., 1995.
thoracic paracentesis thoracentesis.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


The passage into a cavity of a trocar and cannula, needle, or other hollow instrument for the purpose of removing fluid; variously designated according to the cavity punctured.
Synonym(s): tapping (2)
[G. parakentēsis, a tapping for dropsy, fr. para, beside, + kentēsis, puncture]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Abdominal tap, 'belly' tap, peritoneal fluid analysis Critical care A minimally invasive procedure for differentiating a 'surgical' abdomen–ie, requiring surgery, from a 'non-surgical' abdomen Indications Blunt abdominal trauma, especially with concomitant substance abuse, acute pancreatitis, post-operative peritonitis or peritonitis in children with a 2nd disease; diagnostic paracentesis is performed to determine the cause of ↑ intraabdominal fluids, which is most often due to cirrhosis, but is also caused by carcinoma, inflammation–peritonitis, pancreatitis, ruptured diverticulitis, and abdominal trauma with rupture of organs or blood vessels; the protein level is low in transudates–eg, ascitic fluid and high in exudates–eg, inflammation and malignancy. Cf Thoracentesis.
Normal values-paracentesis  
 RBCs None
WBCs  < 300/mm3
 Alk phos  50-250 U/L
 Amylase  140-400U/L
Glucose 70-100 g/dL
Protein  < 4 0 g/dL
Volume Minimal, usually ± 20 ml  
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The passage into a cavity of a trocar and cannula, needle, or other hollow instrument for the purpose of removing fluid; variously designated according to the cavity punctured.
Synonym(s): tapping (2) .
[G. parakentēsis, a tapping for dropsy, fr. para, beside, + kentēsis, puncture]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Surgical puncturing of a body cavity with a needle for the purpose of removing fluid. This may be done either to obtain a sample for diagnostic purposes or to relieve symptoms caused by excessive fluid accumulation.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Repeat large-volume paracentesis versus tunneled peritoneal catheter placement for malignant ascites: a cost-minimization study.
Benefits of anterior chamber paracentesis in the management of glaucomatous emergencies.
a- Abdominal paracentesis: Soon after the paracentesis procedure, urinary output increases together with a decrease in the patient's weight, lower extremity edema, and abdominal circumference.
In addition, paracentesis can further establish the presence of hemoperitoneum.
Paracentesis was carried out with removal of 13 liters of serous ascites and intravenous albumin replacement.
Monescillo et al., "Randomized trial comparing albumin, dextran 70, and polygeline in cirrhotic patients with ascites treated by paracentesis," Gastroenterology, vol.
Decidimos hacer este articulo de revision a partir de la experiencia que tuvimos en la realizacion de una guia institucional en el Hospital Universitario San Ignacio acerca de la paracentesis. Es un procedimiento sencillo que se hace con regularidad en los servicios de urgencias, hospitalizacion general y, de acuerdo con algunas consideraciones, en la unidad de cuidados intensivos.
Pulmonary function tests demonstrated a low DLco 9.33 L, vital capacity 2.75 L, and a repeat heart catheterization after a thoracentesis and paracentesis without albumin: RA 3 mm/Hg, PA 30/10 mm/Hg, mean 18 mm/Hg, and PWP 12 mm/Hg (Table 1).
Depending on the patient's past medical history one can put in place an idea of what to expect on results of the paracentesis. For example, in people with history of cirrhosis with ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis should be high on the differential, but anchoring to that can lead to missing the right diagnosis.
The patient was started on diuretics and underwent multiple paracentesis for ascites, as well as being treated for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP).
Paracentesis in these cases could be detrimental causing pyelonephrosis, sepsis, and shock.
In contrast, primary peritonitis is often diagnosed with paracentesis and treated with antibiotics.