Paracentesis is a palliative treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients experiencing fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity.

Key Points

  • 1

    Paracentesis is a minimally-invasive surgery meant to relieve symptoms.

  • 2

    The surgery removes fluid in the abdomen that can interfere with a patient's breathing.

  • 3

    While it's considered a safe option, patients still face some potential complications.

  • 4

    Paracentesis can improve overall quality of life, but does not effect prognosis.

Paracentesis is a minimally-invasive procedure used to remove excess fluid from the abdominal cavity, a condition also called ascites. This procedure may also be an abdominal or ascites tap, and may be used for either diagnostic or therapeutic reasons. This excess fluid tends to collect in patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity.

A small amount of fluid is normal to prevent friction between the organs and other structures in the abdomen, but when too much collects, it can cause pressure and discomfort. It can also negatively affect a patient’s ability to breathe, interfering with the normal function of the intestines or stomach. Paracentesis removes the excess fluid to help reduce or eliminate pressure buildup and relieve symptoms so mesothelioma patients experience an improved quality of life. The procedure is also used to help relieve fluid buildup that occurs for other conditions, including other types of cancer, infections or liver disease.

The Paracentesis Procedure

Paracentesis uses a long, hollow needle or tube to access the excess fluid in the abdominal cavity so it can be removed. Before the procedure, the needle insertion site will be carefully cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic. The needle will be carefully placed into the abdominal cavity at the site of fluid buildup. The needle may be guided by a CT scan or ultrasound to ensure it’s in the proper location. After the needle reaches the treatment site, the fluid will be gently extracted.

Patients may feel a slight pulling sensation as the needle is inserted and the fluid is removed. Patients may also experience lightheadedness, and should let the doctor know they start to feel sick or unwell during the procedure. Once the fluid is extracted, the needle will be removed and a bandage will be placed over the injection site. The procedure can be performed right in the doctor’s office, in a medical center or imaging center, or in a hospital.

Patients may have some drainage from the site for a day or two, especially if a lot of fluid is removed during the procedure. They may also need to take part in multiple sessions, since fluid buildup may return.

Palliative Benefits

Once the fluid is removed, patients generally experience a relief from symptoms. Most commonly, patients are able to breath much more comfortably, since the fluid won’t be adding extra pressure in the abdomen. Patients will also have a reduced sensation of fullness or pressure in the stomach following the procedure. Without the excess fluid, patients can achieve a much better quality of life.

Risks and Complications

Paracentesis is generally considered to be a safe procedure, but as with any type of medical procedure, there are risks that should be considered prior to undergoing treatment, including:

Common Paracentesis Risks
  • Perforation (puncturing) of the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel
  • Transfer of cancer cells from one area of the abdomen to another
  • Shock, especially if a very large amount of fluid is removed causing your blood pressure to rapidly drop
  • Kidney malfunction, especially in those with kidney disease or risk factors for kidney disease
  • Bleeding and infection

If you have questions about paracentesis or other procedures used in the management of mesothelioma, speak with your doctor.

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Sources [+]
  • 1 Paracentesis: Procedure, Preparation, Risks, and Results." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.
  • 2 "Advanced Cancer." American Cancer Society. (n.d.): 91. Web
  • 3 Bfahey. "Interventional Radiology: Paracentesis (“belly tap”) or Thoracentesis (“chest tap”)". NIH Clinical Center Patient Education Materials.
Written By Tonya Nelson Tonya Nelson

Tonya Nelson is an experienced writer and editor, who has published on a wide variety of topics, particularly in the health field. Her bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University sparked her curiosity for writing stories about environmental and medical issues. As the Managing Editor, Tonya oversees the content development process, ensuring every article and informational page published adheres to MAA Center’s editorial guidelines.