Large-volume paracentesis, the preferred treatment for patients with symptomatic tense ascites due to cirrhosis, has traditionally been performed by physicians as an inpatient procedure. Our objectives were to determine (1) whether large-volume paracentesis could be performed safely and effectively by gastrointestinal endoscopy assistants and as an outpatient procedure, (2) whether the risk of bleeding was associated with either thrombocytopenia or prolongation of the prothrombin time, and (3) the resources used for large-volume paracentesis. Gastrointestinal endoscopy assistants performed 1,100 large-volume paracenteses in 628 patients, 513 of whom had cirrhosis of the liver. The preprocedure mean international normalized ratio for prothrombin time was 1.7 +/- 0.46 (range, 0.9-8.7; interquartile range, 1.4-2.2), and the mean platelet count was 50.4 x 10(3)/microL, (range, 19 x 10(3)/microL - 341 x 10(3)/microL; interquartile range, 42-56 x 10(3)/microL). Performance of 3 to 7 supervised paracenteses was required before competence was achieved. There were no significant procedure-related complications, even in patients with marked thrombocytopenia or prolongation in the prothrombin time. The mean duration of large-volume paracentesis was 97 +/- 24 minutes, and the mean volume of ascitic fluid removed was 8.7 +/- 2.8 L. In conclusion, large-volume paracentesis can be performed safely as an outpatient procedure by trained gastrointestinal endoscopy assistants. Ten supervised paracenteses would be optimal for training the operators carrying out the procedure. The practice guideline of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases which states that routine correction of prolonged prothrombin time or thrombocytopenia is not required is appropriate when experienced personnel carry out paracentesis.
Copyright 2004 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases