Paracentesis for cancer-related ascites in palliative care: An international, prospective cohort study

Publication Name

Palliative Medicine


Background: Paracentesis is commonly undertaken in patients with cancer-related ascites. Aim: To systematically investigate the symptomatic benefits and harms experienced by patients with cancer undergoing paracentesis using real-world data in the palliative care setting. Design: Prospective, multisite, observational, consecutive cohort study. Benefits and harms of paracentesis were assessed between 01/07/2018 and 31/02/2021 as part of routine clinical assessments by treating clinicians at four timepoints: (T0) before paracentesis; (T1) once drainage ceased; (T2) 24 h after T1 and (T3) 28 days after T1 or next paracentesis, if sooner. Setting/participants: Data were collected from 11 participating sites across five countries (Australia, England, Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand) on 111 patients undergoing paracentesis via a temporary (73%) or indwelling (21%) catheter: 51% male, median age 69 years, Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Score 50. Results: At T1 (n = 100), symptoms had improved for most patients (81%), specifically abdominal distension (61%), abdominal pain (49%) and nausea (27%), with two-thirds experiencing improvement in ⩾2 symptoms. In the remaining patients, symptoms were unchanged (7%) or worse (12%). At least one harm occurred in 32% of patients, the most common being an ascitic leak (n = 14). By T3, 89% of patients had experienced some benefit and 36% some harm, including four patients who experienced serious harm, one of which was a fatal bowel perforation. Conclusion: Most patients obtained rapid benefits from paracentesis. Harms were less frequent and generally mild, but occasionally serious and fatal. Our findings help inform clinician-patient discussions about the potential outcomes of paracentesis in this frail population.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Sponsor

Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise



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