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Abdominal tap, also known as paracentesis, is a medical procedure to remove excess fluid from the abdominal cavity, the area between the abdominal wall and the spine. Normally there is little to no fluid in the abdominal cavity. Fluid in the abdominal cavity can cause bloating, pain, and breathing difficulties. The most common cause of fluid in the abdominal cavity is cirrhosis of the liver, but it can also be caused by a variety of illnesses including infection, bowel damage, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer.
Your doctor may perform a diagnostic tap to find out the cause of the fluid buildup, or he may perform a large-volume tap, during which up to several liters of fluid are removed to decrease the pressure and pain.
Before you have an abdominal tap, your doctor will take your medical history and give you a physical exam. He or she may also order blood tests, X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound tests. The abdominal tap can be done in the doctor’s office, a treatment room, or in the hospital. You should not eat or drink anything 12 hours before the procedure, and be sure to empty your bladder right before.
An abdominal tap procedure takes only about 10 to 15 minutes, and involves the following:
Risks associated with an abdominal tap are rare, the most common being minor trouble breathing and fluid leakage right after the procedure. Usually you will have to wait to leave the doctor’s office or hospital until those clear up. Other risks include:
Once you are home, call your doctor immediately if you develop any of these symptoms:
The most common cause of abdominal fluid requiring a diagnostic abdominal tap is cirrhosis of the liver. Other possible results and causes of the fluid retention are:
Depending on the results of the abdominal tap and any other test performed, further medical care may be needed.
Written by: Julie Roddick and Kristeen Cherney
Published on: Jul 11, 2012on: Jan 12, 2016
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