Ultrasound-guided paracentesis by radiologists is safe

By Staff News Brief

Paracentesis with real-time color Doppler ultrasound guidance performed by radiologists has minimal risk of hemorrhage or other complications; thus patients do not need routine prophylactic blood product transfusion prior to the procedure, say researchers writing in the February issue of the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology

Paracentesis is the removal of ascites, a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity that tends to occur in patients with cirrhosis and/or advanced liver disease. The most common major complication of paracentesis is hemorrhage, but others include infection and/or perforation of the colon or small bowel. At some hospitals and outpatient centers, blood transfusions are performed to minimize risk.

Radiologists at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ, reviewed more than 3,000 paracentesis procedures performed during a 24-month period to determine the rate of hemorrhage in patients who did not receive prophylactic blood product transfusions. The paracentesis procedures were performed for 296 outpatients and 757 inpatients, 95% of whom had cirrhosis and underwent multiple paracentesis procedures during this time.

Ninety percent of inpatient and 100% of outpatient paracentesis procedures are performed by radiologists at Banner.

Only six procedures out of 3,116, or 0.19%, required packed red blood cell transfusion. Two patients developed hemoperitoneum, and one patient required an angiogram with embolization of a bleeding abdominal wall vessel. The authors stated that they did not identify any predictors of post-procedure bleeding, including platelet count and increased international normalized ratio (INR).

Lead author Michael W. Rowley, MD, and colleagues reported that if current guidelines of the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) had been followed, 247 inpatients and 188 outpatients would have required a fresh frozen plasma transfusion. They estimated that the total fresh frozen plasma need would have been 1,125 units, at a cost of $450,000. There were 366 cases where patients would have required single-donor platelet transfusions based on their platelet count, and a cost of $366,000.


  1. Rowley MW, Agarwal S, Seetharam AB, et al. Real-time ultrasound-guided paracentesis by radiologists: Near zero risk of hemorrhage without correction of coagulopathy. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2019;30(2):259-264.
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Ultrasound-guided paracentesis by radiologists is safe.  Appl Radiol. 

By Staff News Brief| March 22, 2019
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