How to care for patients undergoing paracentesis for the drainage of ascites
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to care for patients undergoing paracentesis for the drainage of ascites

Grace Robinson Staff nurse, Acute Medicine, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your knowledge of the procedure involved in paracentesis for the drainage of ascites

  • To understand the role of the nurse in paracentesis and monitoring the patient during the procedure

  • To recognise the complications that may occur during paracentesis, thus supporting safe and effective patient care

Rationale and key points

Ascites is the excessive accumulation of extracellular fluid within the peritoneal cavity, which usually develops as a result of cirrhosis of the liver. Paracentesis is the procedure for removing ascitic fluid from the transabdominal peritoneal cavity via a temporary ascitic drain. This article aims to support nurses in providing safe and effective care for patients undergoing paracentesis.

• Paracentesis is used to reduce intra-abdominal pressure and to relieve the symptoms of abdominal ascites, such as severe abdominal distention, pain and dyspnoea (difficulty breathing). The removal of at least 5L of ascitic fluid is considered large-volume paracentesis.

• The role of the nurse is usually to monitor the patient throughout the procedure, administer treatment as directed by the medical team and, depending on local policy, remove the drain at the end of the procedure.

• Knowledge of the benefits and risks of this procedure is essential to provide safe, evidence-based care for patients undergoing paracentesis.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

1. How reading this article will change your practice in caring for patients undergoing paracentesis.

2. How this article could be used to educate patients who are due to undergo paracentesis.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11344

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Robinson G (2019) How to care for patients undergoing paracentesis for the drainage of ascites. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11344

Published online: 28 October 2019

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