by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Ascites Fluid Tap; Abdominal Tap)


Abdominal paracentesis uses a needle to remove fluid from the belly.

Ascites—Fluid Build up in Belly
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

Ascites is the build-up of fluid in the belly. This procedure may be done to:

  • Take out a sample of fluid for testing to find a cause
  • Drain excess fluid
  • Ease breathing problems
  • Ease pain

This may need to be repeated. Fluid may return if the cause has not been treated.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to nearby structures

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

If the procedure is not being done to provide emergency care, the care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as imaging tests


Local anesthesia will be used. The area will be numbed.

Description of the Procedure

A numbing medicine will be injected. Imaging may be used to help guide the needle and insert it into the belly. Fluid will be drawn out through the needle. The amount of fluid that is removed depends on why the procedure is being done.

A sample of fluid may be sent for testing.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how much fluid needs to be removed

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common at the needle insertion site. Medicine and home care can help.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people can go home the same day. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You may be given pain medicines.

At Home

Most people can go back to normal activities in 24 hours. It depends on the reason why the fluid was removed.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or fluid leaking from the needle site
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Cancer Society 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology 

Health Canada 


Ascites. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2020.

Piano S, Tonon M, et al. Management of ascites and hepatorenal syndrome. Hepatol Int. 2018 Feb;12(Suppl 1):122-134.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 04/16/2021