Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.



Paracentesis is a procedure that removes extra fluid from the space between your spine and belly wall (abdominal cavity). Normally, there’s little or no fluid in this area. The extra fluid can cause belly pain.

This procedure relieves belly pain and helps us diagnose the cause of the fluid buildup.

During this procedure, we first numb the area. We then place a needle and a thin, flexible tube into your abdominal cavity to drain the excess fluid. The procedure usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

Once we know what’s causing your fluid buildup, we may recommend further treatment.

Why It Is Done

We may perform this procedure to:

  • Relieve pressure in your abdomen.
  • Diagnose an underlying health condition.
  • Identify the cause of fluid buildup.

Possible causes are:

  •  Infection
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Bowel damage

When you have a chronic condition (such as cancer or cirrhosis), we may need to perform this procedure every few weeks to reduce recurring fluid buildup (therapeutic paracentesis).

Removing the extra fluid relieves belly pain. It also reduces possible kidney and liver function problems. These organs may not function well under pressure from too much abdominal fluid.


This procedure is generally considered safe. Although uncommon, possible risks at the needle site include:

  • Pain and bruising
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection

Serious risks are rare but include:

  • A tear (puncture) in a blood vessel, the bowel, or bladder, from the needle.
  • Removal of too much fluid, leading to low blood pressure or kidney function problems.

How to Prepare

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for this procedure.

Before the procedure, it’s important to tell us:

  • About all medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you take. We may ask you to stop taking blood thinners or other medications.
  • About any allergies to medicines or latex.
  • If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • If you had previous bleeding problems after surgery or other procedures.

We can safely perform this procedure:

  • At your bedside in the hospital.
  • In a radiology suite.
  • In our clinic.

What to Expect

The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. Removing a large volume of fluid may take longer.

You’ll be awake and lying on your back.

  • An ultrasound helps us locate the fluid buildup.
  • We apply local anesthesia to your abdomen to numb the area.
  • We carefully insert the needle into your abdominal cavity.
  • The needle is replaced with a thin tube attached to a vacuum system that withdraws the fluid.

You might feel pressure when the needle is inserted. It’s important that you do not move unless we ask you to change positions. Let us know if you have pain or feel dizzy. You might need intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent low blood pressure.

Clear fluid may leak from the needle site for a few hours or days. Let us know if it increases, changes color, or persists for more than 2 days.


After the procedure we’ll:

  • Send a fluid sample to a laboratory to identify the cause of fluid buildup.
  • Know the results within 2 weeks, or earlier.

Once we know the cause, we can talk about your treatment plan together. For example, you may need antibiotics to treat an infection.

For more serious conditions (such as liver disease), we’ll talk about how best to treat your condition. It’s possible you might need routine removal of fluid buildup.

When to Call Us

Call us right away if you develop signs of infection, such as:

  • Redness, swelling, and tenderness around the needle site
  • Fever higher than 100.5°F
  • Bleeding from the needle site
  • Fluid discharge or foul smell from the needle site

Call 911 or seek urgent care if you develop severe or sudden abdominal pain

Additional References:

Related Health Tools:

Prepare for Your Procedure

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.