Ascites: Defined as free fluid in the abdominal cavity. The fluid wave is a very specific test (82-92%) for detecting ascites. It is performed by having the patient (or assistant) place the medial side of their hands onto the abdominal midline. The examiner then taps the left or right flank sharply while using the opposite fingertips to try to detect the impulse on the contra-lateral flank.

WHY THE HANDS ON THE STOMACH? To stop the transmission of the impulse wave through subcutaneous fat.



  1. John W. Williams Jr, MD; David L. Simel, MD, MHS. Does This Patient Have Ascites?. JAMA. 1992;267(19):2645-2648. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480190087038.Text Size: A A A

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