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This leaflet contains information about ascitic drains, what you need to do before the procedure, what the procedure will involve and what will happen after.
Your referring Doctor or Specialist Nurse has advised you to have an ultrasound guided ascitic drain. The most common reason for having an ascitic drain is to relieve abdominal (tummy) swelling and discomfort caused by extra fluid in your abdominal cavity. This fluid is called ascites.
If not drained, ascites can cause pain, discomfort, sleepless nights, swollen legs, loss of appetite and difficulty with breathing.
You will need to have the procedure in the hospital. If you are not already an inpatient, you will receive details to be admitted into hospital from your referring Doctor/ Specialist Nurse. However, this procedure does not always involve an overnight stay.
When you are admitted to the ward, the Nurse will need to ask you some questions to complete a nursing assessment; they will also need to take some blood samples to ensure that your bloods are in range for the procedure.
The blood samples can sometimes be taken the day before the procedure, your referring Doctor / Specialist Nurse can discuss this with you.
We advise that you can drink and eat a light breakfast, such as cereal or toast before the procedure, and you may take your normal medications.
However, if you are taking blood thinners such as Aspirin, Warfarin, Clopidogrel, Apixaban or Rivaroxaban please contact the Doctor/ Specialist Nurse that referred you for the drain, as they may need to give you instructions on stopping these safely before you can have the ascitic drain inserted.
On admission to the ward you will be asked to change into an examination gown. Once you are in your hospital bed you will be escorted by a Porter to the Department of Clinical Radiology, where you will have the ascitic drain inserted.
On arrival in the Department of Clinical Radiology, you will meet the specially trained Doctor called a Radiologist, who will be performing the procedure. You will also have a Radiology Nurse with you throughout the procedure.
The Radiologist will explain the procedure to you and the risks involved, and you will also have the opportunity to ask any questions. You will be asked to sign a written consent form, and will be given a copy for your own records.
You will be awake throughout the procedure and an injection of local anaesthetic will be given to the skin on your abdomen where the drain will be inserted.
The Radiologist will use an ultrasound machine to guide a needle and a thin wire to insert the drain into your abdomen. The needle and wire are then removed and the drain is attached to a drainage bag for the fluid to drain into.
The procedure will take around 30 minutes, although you may be in the Department of Clinical Radiology for longer whilst the Radiology Nurse does some checks on you and completes paperwork, before escorting you back to your hospital bed on the ward.
You will return to the ward and will be asked to rest in bed for at least 4-6 hours. However, we encourage you to move around on the bed to help the fluid drain away, and a Nurse on the ward will monitor your clinical observations regularly. This can include your temperature, breathing and heart rate, pain levels and how alert you are.
If you start to feel unwell, you must let the ward Nurses know as soon as possible as it may be that the fluid is draining too quickly and if this happens, the drain may need to be closed off temporarily.
Once the fluid has drained you will go to the Theatre Treatment Suite (based in the hospital) to have the drain removed. This involves loosening the drain and slowly pulling it out. This is usually pain free and only takes a couple of minutes to do. The Nurse will then apply a dressing because a small amount of fluid may leak from the site. Nurses on the ward will check on this for you and give you advice for when you get home.
The dressing can be usually be removed 24-48 hours after. Your Doctor / Specialist Nurse will review you and advise when you are well enough to leave the hospital. This information will be discussed with you before you go home.
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