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Paracentesis is a form of body fluid sampling procedure, generally referring to peritoneocentesis (also called laparocentesis - "cent" means "pierce") in which the peritoneal cavity is punctured by a needle to sample peritoneal fluid.
It is used for a number of reasons:
The procedure is often performed in a doctor's office or an outpatient clinic. In an expert's hands it is usually very safe, although there is a small risk of infection, excessive bleeding or perforating a loop of bowel. These last two risks can be minimized greatly with the use of ultrasound guidance.
The patient is requested to urinate before the procedure; alternately, a Foley catheter is used to empty the bladder. The patient is positioned in the bed with the head elevated at 45-60 degrees to allow fluid to accumulate in lower abdomen. After cleaning the side of the abdomen with an antiseptic solution, the physician numbs a small area of skin and inserts a large-bore needle with a plastic sheath 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) in length to reach the peritoneal (ascitic) fluid. The needle is removed, leaving the plastic sheath to allow drainage of the fluid. The fluid is drained by gravity, a syringe or by connection to a vacuum bottle. Several litres of fluid may be drained during the procedure; however, if more than two litres are to be drained it will usually be done over the course of several treatments. If fluid drainage is more than 5 litres, patients may receive intravenous serum albumin (25% albumin, 8g/L) to prevent hypotension (low blood pressure). After the desired level of drainage is complete, the plastic sheath is removed and the puncture site bandaged. The plastic sheath can be left in place with a flow control valve and protective dressing if further treatments are expected to be necessary.
The procedure generally is not painful and does not require sedation. The patient is usually discharged within several hours following post-procedure observation provided that blood pressure is otherwise normal and the patient experiences no dizziness.
The serum-ascites albumin gradient can help determine the cause of the ascites. The ascitic white blood cell count can help determine if the ascites is infected.
Absolute contraindication is acute abdomen that requires surgery. Relative contraindications are: