In order to relieve symptoms, the treatment of ascites involves slowing the build-up of the fluid and putting a tube into the abdomen to drain it (known as paracentesis).
The ascitic tube (drain) is usually inserted by a doctor. This procedure can be done in the ward or outpatients clinic. Sometimes the drain is put in while you are having an ultrasound scan, which helps show the doctor where to position the drain.
Once you're lying down comfortably, the skin in the area where the drain is to be inserted is cleaned. The doctor then gives you an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the area and stop the procedure from being painful.
The doctor makes a very small cut in the skin of the abdomen and inserts a thin tube called a cannula, which is attached to a drainage bag. The ascitic fluid drains out of the abdomen and collects inside the drainage bag. The cannula may be held in place with a couple of stitches and covered with a dressing.
The length of time that the drainage tube needs to stay in place for depends on the amount of fluid that needs to be drained off. Sometimes a small amount of fluid can be drained in the outpatients clinic. If there is a large amount of fluid, however, the procedure may need to be carried out in hospital under the supervision of the doctors and nurses. The drain may stay in place for up to 24 hours, although occasionally it may stay in longer.
It's possible for the ascitic fluid to build up again, and drainage may need to be carried out more than once. If the fluid builds up again quickly, your doctor may insert a tube known as a catheter into the abdomen. The catheter is used to drain fluid from the abdomen and may be left in place for several weeks. Your doctor will be able to give you more information about this.