Abdominocentesis in Cats

Abdominocentesis is a procedure in which fluid is removed from the abdomen in cats or other pets using a needle. It can be done either to obtain fluid for evaluation or to remove large amounts of fluid if it is interfering with the pet’s ability to breath. Abdominocentesis is indicated any time there is fluid accumulation within the abdomen or if abdominal pain is present.

Any fluid accumulation within the abdominal cavity is considered abnormal. Determining if fluid is present and what type of fluid –clear, cloudy or blood tinged – is an important part of determining any underlying illness. Abdominal fluid may develop in association with liver disease, heart failure, cancer, traumatic injury, ruptured tumors, ruptured intestines or urinary bladder rupture.

There are no real contraindications to performing this test in a cat with suspected abdominal fluid.

What Does an Abdominocentesis Reveal in Cats?

An abdominocentesis reveals if fluid is present within the abdomen. In order to detect fluid, a certain amount needs to be present in order to draw the fluid into a syringe, so in some cases, small amounts of fluid present in the abdomen may not be detected. Any fluid removed from the abdomen is considered abnormal and may need to be evaluated microscopically. Based on the results of fluid evaluation, the underlying cause of the fluid accumulation may be determined.

How Is an Abdominocentesis Done in Cats?

In order to perform an abdominocentesis, your veterinarian will likely shave a small area of hair from the abdomen. The skin is disinfected and a needle inserted into the abdominal cavity. Fluid is collected with special tubing, a syringe or allowed to drip from the needle into a sterile tube. After the fluid is collected, analysis is needed to help determine the potential underlying cause of the fluid accumulation. Analysis of the fluid may be done by your veterinarian or submitted to an outside laboratory. Test results may not be available for up to 3 to 5 days but sometimes, results may be available within a couple of hours. The length of time will depend on which tests are necessary.

Is an Abdominocentesis Painful to Cats?

Any pain involved is associated with the collection of a fluid sample. A needle is used to pierce the skin and enter the abdominal cavity. As with people, the pain experienced from a needle will vary from individual to individual cat.

Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed for an Abdominocentesis?

Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most patients; however, some cats resent needle sticks and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia.