What Is Paracentesis?

Some extra weight in your midsection may lead you to believe you’ve gained a few pounds. Yet, if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the reality can be much more critical. Typically, paracentesis (also known as abdominocentesis and peritoneocentesis) is a surgical treatment using a needle or catheter to drain excess fluid from the abdominal cavity. The term comes from the Greek parakentēsis, meaning “perforation” or, literally, “to pierce at the side.”

The abdominal cavity (also known as the peritoneal cavity) encompasses the intestines, stomach, and liver, and the buildup of fluid within it is known as ascites. Ascites can be caused by a variety of illnesses including peritoneal mesothelioma, liver disease, and heart failure. In general, using the paracentesis procedure as a treatment for ascites typically occurs for one of two reasons: diagnosis or palliation.

Ascites may cause the following symptoms, and subsequently require paracentesis:

  • Abdominal or ankle swelling
  • Changes to belly button
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain

Essentially, the ascitic fluid is drainage from the lymphatic system, a series of small channels that can become blocked by growing cancer cells throughout the body, allowing the fluid to build up. The added weight can be an uncomfortable – even painful – feeling of fullness. Usually, treatment is administered in a hospital outpatient center or clinic and requires minimal anesthesia. However, large amounts of fluid or fluid in multiple areas of the abdomen may require an overnight stay in inpatient care.

Other, similar surgical procedures for mesothelioma-related fluid swelling include thoracentesis (removal of fluid from the chest due to pleural mesothelioma) and pericardiocentesis (removal of fluid from the sac surrounding the heart due to pericardial mesothelioma).

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The Procedure for Paracentesis

In most cases, treatment for paracentesis, whether administered for palliative or diagnostic reasons, is largely the same. The patient lies on his back, with his head and shoulders raised somewhat, and nothing covering the abdomen. With a local anesthetic, the area is numbed and a hollow (yet small) needle or catheter is inserted just beneath the skin and muscles. At times, a doctor may require an ultrasound prior to the procedure to better locate the fluid. Next, with the tube in place, the fluid is allowed to drain from the abdomen – typical procedures last about 45 minutes. Once finished, the incision is cleaned and bandaged (sometimes stitched, if required).

If your doctor suspects the fluid may accumulate again quickly, or if more time is needed to allow the fluid to fully drain, a tunneled peritoneal drainage catheter may be attached to the body on one end, with a bag on the other. This lets the patient return home while drainage continues.

If the procedure was conducted for diagnostic purposes, the needle inserted into the abdomen will collect a sample of fluid to examine under a microscope. For both palliative and diagnostic procedures, recovery time is typically minimal – though further fluid buildup may necessitate additional procedures. Notify your health care team immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms (because they are signs of infection):

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Leaking odorous fluid
  • Redness or swelling at the incision

Potential Complications of Paracentesis

In most cases, paracentesis is conducted quickly and with minimal complications among patients. Thus, the procedure can be administered outside a hospital, in doctors’ clinics, and even in-home by certain registered nurses and physicians. However, side-effects of the surgical procedure may arise if proper safety protocols are not followed. Too, patients may experience adverse reactions based on their medical history. Potential side effects of the paracentesis procedure include:

  • Catheter blockage
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Infection
  • Kidney failure
  • Leakage after procedure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pain or discomfort at the incision
  • Shock
  • Puncture of bowels, bladder, or blood vessels when a needle is inserted

Legal Claims for Financial Compensation

Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis means that you have been exposed to asbestos in your lifetime and may have the legal grounds to file a lawsuit for compensation. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have the opportunity to request a free case evaluation from an experienced mesothelioma attorney and learn more about your legal options for financial compensation.

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