Background : Bleeding is a recognized complication of abdominal paracentesis. Special concern has been raised when it is performed in patients with liver failure because of coagulation disorders and collaterals in the abdominal wall.

Aim : To assess the clinical characteristics of patients who developed haemorrhagic complications after paracentesis.

Methods : We reviewed all cases of severe haemorrhage occurring after paracentesis in patients admitted to the Liver Unit of our institution between 1994 and 2004.

Results : Nine cases were identified among 4729 procedures. The occurrence of severe haemorrhage represented 0.19% of all procedures with a death rate of 0.016%. Bleeding was not related to operator experience, elevated international normalized ratio or low platelets. It occurred in patients with high model for end-stage liver disease and Child-Pugh scores. Furthermore, some degree of renal failure was present in all but one patient.

Conclusion : Severe haemorrhage after abdominal paracentesis in patients with liver disease occurs in 0.2% of cases. It occurs in patients with severe liver failure and is often associated with significant pre-existing renal dysfunction.