OSF Medical Group

Abdomen Fluid Removal (Paracentesis)

The abdomen naturally contains peritoneal fluid; however, when an increased amount of fluid builds up and collects in the abdomen (ascites), it needs to be removed. 

The process of removing the fluid is called paracentesis, and it is performed with a long, thin needle. A sample of the fluid will be sent to the lab for testing to determine the cause.

The excess fluid can be caused by cancer, cirrhosis, infection, inflammation, injury, or other conditions.


Our staff will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have prior to surgery. You may receive a physical examination, including blood and urine tests, to ensure you are in good health for the procedure.

Please make sure to bring a complete list of all medications and herbal supplements you are currently taking with you to your appointment.

Please let our staff know if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Pregnant or suspect you are pregnant
  • Allergic to medications, latex, tape, or anesthetics
  • History of bleeding disorders or are taking a blood thinner, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting

What to Expect

Paracentesis is a 20 to 30 minute procedure so it can be done in the doctor’s office, the emergency department, the radiology department, or at the patient’s bedside at the hospital.

You will be asked to remove any jewelry or objects that interfere with the surgery as well as your clothing; you will be given a surgical gown to wear.

Patients will be asked to empty the bladder prior to the procedure. Depending on the amount of fluid being removed, the patient will either sit up or lie down for the procedure.

Either way, it is important be completely still during the procedure, unless the doctor asks to change positions to help the fluid drain. The physician will clean the area of the abdomen where the needle will be inserted and drape the area as well.

First, the doctor will administer numbing medicine to the abdomen. Then, the paracentesis needle will be inserted slowly after the area is numb.

If the test is performed in the radiology department, the doctor may use ultrasound guidance to find the area where the fluid is located.

When larger amounts of fluid need to be removed, the paracentesis needle can be hooked to a vacuum bottle by a small tube for the fluid to drain into.

Patients requiring larger amounts of fluid to be withdrawn will also be given IV fluids in the arm to prevent low blood pressure or shock. Once the fluid has been drained, the needle will be removed, and the site will be covered with a bandage.

The patient’s pulse, blood pressure, and temperature are monitored for about an hour following the procedure. Patients may resume normal activities after the procedure unless otherwise specified by the physician.


You may be taken to the recovery room for observation if your procedure was done in a procedure room or in the radiology department.

Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you may be taken to a hospital room or discharged to go home.

Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your situation.

Follow Up

Arrangements for a follow-up appointment with our staff will be made upon discharge.