Categories: Gastrointestinal

Ascites Fluid Wave Test: Why a hand on the abdomen?

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
Get Medical Pearls directly to your inbox every week!
Weekly posts with high yield medical knowledge, directly to your mailbox!
Dr. C Humphreys

Internal Medicine

Recent Posts

Mechanism of a Mixed Apnea

Mixed apneas are characterized by absent respiratory effort and airflow in the first section of…

12 months ago

How Does Hypothyroidism Cause Hypoventilation?

Although rare, the differential diagnosis of hypoventilation and hypercapnia respiratory failure includes hypothyroidism. It is…

12 months ago

Why is Pro-BNP/ BNP lower in Obesity?

B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a hormone created in response to cardiac wall stretch due…

1 year ago

What is Peribronchovascular Distribution on CT imaging?

A common finding described on computed tomography (CT) imaging. A disease with a peribronchovascular distribution…

2 years ago

Trapped Lung vs. Lung Entrapment

Though often used synonymously; Trapped Lung and Lung Entrapment technically describe separate entities along the…

3 years ago

Cause of Pericardial Effusion in Pulmonary Hypertension: Pathogenesis

It is not clearly understood why patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) develop pericardial effusions. However,…

3 years ago

This website uses cookies.