What Is a Paracentesis for Mesothelioma?
A paracentesis is a surgical procedure in which doctors drain peritoneal ascites using a plastic tube (catheter) and hollow needle. This procedure is also called an abdominal tap or ascitic tap. A paracentesis is often recommended for those with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that affects the peritoneum (abdomen lining).
“Sometimes people go in and they have a one-time paracentesis of the abdomen and the fluid doesn’t come back.”
— Amy Fair, RN, Mesothelioma Hope Patient Advocate
Paracentesis for mesothelioma can be used for:
- Diagnostic purposes: After extracting the abdominal fluid, doctors can send it to a lab to see if mesothelioma cancer cells are present.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma symptom relief: This type of cancer commonly leads to ascites, which can cause stomach pain, swelling, and breathing difficulties. By draining the fluid, these peritoneal patients can start to feel better.
In a study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine High Impact Case Reports, doctors drained 2.5 liters of bloody fluid from an 88-year-old man suffering from ascites. A test of the fluid confirmed his peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis.
You may qualify to get a mesothelioma paracentesis right now from top oncologists (cancer doctors). Find a specialist near you with our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match.
Steps for Getting a Paracentesis for Mesothelioma
1. Initial Consultation
Before getting a paracentesis for mesothelioma, doctors must see if the patient is eligible. Patients may need to have imaging tests ahead of time (like an ultrasound or CT scan) to see where the fluid has built up.
Patients should also ask if they can eat prior to a paracentesis and tell their doctors about any medications they take, most notably blood thinners, since bleeding may occur when the needle is inserted.
2. Paracentesis Procedure
If a doctor determines a patient would benefit from a mesothelioma paracentesis, they will go ahead with the procedure.
Here’s a breakdown of the paracentesis process:
- Preparing the patient: At the doctor’s office, the patient will change into a hospital gown, empty their bladder, and lie on a bed with their head resting between 45 and 90 degrees. An IV and equipment to monitor the patient’s vital signs may also be attached.
- Sterilizing and numbing the area: The doctor sterilizes the insertion site and numbs it with a local anesthetic.
- Inserting the needle and catheter: The doctor gently guides a needle into the peritoneal cavity through the abdominal wall. After this is done, a catheter will be inserted.
- Draining the ascitic fluid: The doctor doctors will remove liters of fluid through the catheter to help the patient feel better. According to Merck Manuals, a top medical textbook, up to 8 liters (over 2 gallons) of fluid can be removed in some cases.
- Closing the drainage site: Once the doctor has drained enough ascitic fluid, they will remove the catheter and cover the insertion site with a sterile gauze dressing and a small suture as needed.
Paracentesis is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, which means it doesn’t require a hospital stay. A paracentesis only takes 10-15 minutes, according to the University of Virginia Health System.
Contact us now to get help connecting with top doctors who can perform a paracentesis for peritoneal mesothelioma.
3. Post-Paracentesis Monitoring
After the procedure, doctors will monitor the patient’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure). They may also measure the abdomen to see if any swelling from the ascites has gone down.
The team will discharge the patient in a few hours if their blood pressure is normal and they don’t feel dizzy.
4. Follow-Up Care
Patients should take it easy for 24 hours after getting a paracentesis, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They can resume normal activities after that time unless their doctor tells them not to.
Patients may experience a small amount of clear fluid draining from the insertion site, but this is normal. Patients are advised to alert their mesothelioma doctor right away if a lot of fluid is being released.
How a Paracentesis for Mesothelioma Helps Patients
Paracentesis is an effective way to treat ascites among those with peritoneal mesothelioma and other abdominal health problems.
Paracentesis for mesothelioma can ease symptoms of ascites like:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and swelling
- Difficulty eating and moving
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sense of fullness
Further, this procedure can be repeated if needed. Ascites often comes back (recurs) in cases of peritoneal mesothelioma and other cancers, but by draining the fluid again, symptoms should go away.
“I did have regular paracentesis. There was one [where] I think [the doctors] got 5.8 liters, which is huge.”
— Lawrence, cancer patient with ascites
If you’re looking to get a paracentesis or other top mesothelioma treatment options, we can help. Learn about the best mesothelioma doctors and therapies in our Free Mesothelioma Guide.
Does a Paracentesis for Mesothelioma Affect Life Expectancy?
Paracentesis for mesothelioma is a palliative (pain-relieving) or diagnostic procedure. It can’t directly affect life expectancy.
However, a paracentesis for ascites can play a big role in improving a mesothelioma patient’s quality of life. Thus, the procedure may be used alongside more aggressive peritoneal mesothelioma treatments (like cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC or radiation therapy) that may help patients live longer.
Further, a paracentesis may be one of the main treatments used in cases of metastatic (widespread) peritoneal mesothelioma. Here, treatments are mainly focused on easing painful symptoms rather than improving life expectancy.
Paracentesis Side Effects and Risks
Paracentesis for mesothelioma is a simple and safe procedure, but there is still a risk of complications.
Paracentesis side effects may include:
- Infection (indicated by skin redness, fever, or breathing problems)
- Internal bleeding
- Leaking from needle puncture
- Low blood pressure
- Weakening of kidneys
- Worsening abdominal pain
Sometimes an internal organ or blood vessel may also be punctured by the needle.
Paracentesis vs. Other Palliative Mesothelioma Treatments
While an abdominal paracentesis is very helpful in draining ascites, it may not be the most effective treatment if large amounts of fluid keep building up.
In these cases, mesothelioma doctors may suggest other palliative care options. For example, the patient may benefit from an abdominal catheter. A catheter will allow the patient to drain the fluids at home rather than setting up a hospital appointment each time their ascites comes back.
In 2022, the medical journal Cureus reported on a peritoneal mesothelioma patient who got an abdominal catheter inserted after repeated paracentesis procedures failed to clear up his ascites.
Further, a paracentesis is usually only available for those with peritoneal mesothelioma. However, pleural mesothelioma patients can also suffer from fluid buildup due to a health problem called pleural effusions. These patients can get a similar treatment called a thoracentesis, which drains fluid from the lung lining (pleura).
Find Out if a Mesothelioma Paracentesis Is Right for You
If you have fluid buildup from peritoneal mesothelioma, a paracentesis can alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Mesothelioma Hope can help you determine if you’re a good candidate for paracentesis so you can find the relief you need.
For over 20 years, our team has helped mesothelioma patients connect with top doctors, the best treatments, and financial support. We may be able to assist you if you’re in need of a mesothelioma paracentesis or other procedures.
Get started now by using our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match to find and connect with top specialists.
Paracentesis for Mesothelioma FAQs
How do you treat mesothelioma in the abdomen?
You can treat mesothelioma in the abdomen using a paracentesis. Specifically, doctors can drain fluid that’s built up in the abdomen as a result of the cancer and ease some of the patient’s symptoms with this procedure.
A paracentesis is done by inserting a needle and then a catheter into the abdomen after the area has been numbed with an anesthetic.
Peritoneal mesothelioma must be treated with more aggressive therapies if the patient wants to live longer.
Why do cancer patients need paracentesis?
Some peritoneal mesothelioma patients need a paracentesis in order to remove excess fluid that’s built up in their abdomen. Otherwise, the fluid will cause the patient a lot of pain, abdominal bloating, and difficulty breathing or eating.
A paracentesis quickly drains the fluid so the patient can feel better and have an easier time with daily tasks.
When should you not do paracentesis?
You should not undergo a paracentesis if you have severe problems with blood clotting, an infected abdominal wall, or if an intestine is obstructed (meaning it’s partially blocked).
A doctor can determine if you can undergo a paracentesis for mesothelioma safely.
What is the fluid in the stomach of a mesothelioma patient?
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients will often experience fluid buildup in their stomach or abdomen. This is known as ascites, and it causes abdominal bloating and pain.
By getting a paracentesis to drain the fluid, mesothelioma patients can find relief.