Please note that we are seeing high patient volumes in the emergency department. Learn more >>.

Know before you go to the ER
Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web


Abdominal Paracentesis is a procedure used to drain fluid that has built up in the stomach. The fluid build up (ascites) can be a result of infection, an injury, or diseases such as cirrhosis or cancer.

The paracentesis can either remove a sample of the fluid for testing or drain the excess fluid.


The gastroenterologist may recommend paracentesis in order to:

  • Diagnose the reason for ascites
  • Diagnose an infection
  • Screen for stomach or liver cancer
  • Drain fluid that is causing pain, breathing problems, or damage to the kidney and intestines
  • Screen for damage following trauma to the stomach or abdomen


The gastroenterologist will first numb the area of the belly where the needle will be inserted. The paracentesis needle is inserted, usually guided by ultrasound imaging.

Up to 1 gallon of fluid can be drained at a time. If more fluid needs to be removed, an IV drip will be required to prevent dehydration, low blood pressure, or shock.

The doctor will monitor the patient’s blood pressure and temperature for a short time after the procedure. The patient’s belly may also be measured before and after the test.



A normal test returns no signs of infection, cancer, or inflammation


Abnormal results could mean the following:

An elevated number of white blood cells in the fluid could mean infection or inflammation

  • Serum-ascites albumin gradient (SAAG) is a comparison of the protein level in the blood with the protein level in the tested fluid. High levels of protein may mean cancer or pancreatitis. Low levels of protein may mean cirrhosis or clots.
  • A bacteria culture can show if a bacterial infection is present
  • High levels of the enzyme Lactate dehydrongenase (LDH) may mean infection or cancer
  • High levels of the enzyme amylase may mean pancreatitis
  • Low levels of glucose may mean infection

2023 Best Hospitals - Gastroenterology and GI Surgery

#29 in the Nation (Tie) by U.S. News & World Report

Find a doctor or make an appointment: 866.867.3627
General Information: 314.747.3000
One Barnes-Jewish Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63110
© Copyright 1997-2024, Barnes-Jewish Hospital. All Rights Reserved.