Abdominal drainage (paracentesis)

Abdominal drainage is a procedure to drain fluid (ascites) from the abdomen. The build-up of fluid in the abdomen could be caused by several things including inflammation, infection and traumatic injury. and others.

The procedure

After numbing the skin, a small needle will be directed into the fluid using ultrasound, which allows the radiologist to follow the path of the needle and to see the fluid in the abdomen. The fluid will then be removed through this small needle. The doctor will send a sample of the abdominal fluid to the laboratory.

If the fluid comes back, or multiple drainage procedures are needed, the doctor can place a small catheter into the abdomen using ultrasound and live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance.


Younger patients are usually given intravenous sedation so they aren’t awake during the procedure. If the child is older or has medical problems that prevent us from giving IV sedation, only local numbing medicine will be used.


The procedure is considered low-risk. However, potential complications (<1%) may include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • bowel perforation
  • injury to surrounding structures


Some children feel pain or discomfort at the needle insertion site, usually in the first day or two after the procedure. Over-the-counter pain medication should provide relief.

Bathing after the procedure

A bandage will be placed over the site.After 48 hours you may remove the bandage, and your child can shower or take a bath as usual.

If a drainage catheter was placed, bandaging on the site will stay in place; and you may sponge-bathe your child, as long as you keep the site dry.

Activity restrictions

Normal activity can resume in one or two days if a drainage was performed. If a catheter was inserted then avoiding activities, such as rough playing or contact sports, is advised to avoid dislodging the catheter.