Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Ascites (Disease)


Ascites is a gastroenterological term for an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. The medical condition is also known as peritoneal cavity fluid, peritoneal fluid excess. A person with ascites usually has severe liver disease.

Causes and Risk factors

Ascites due to liver disease is caused by high pressure in the blood vessels of the liver and low albumin levels. Cirrhosis and any illness that leads to it is a common cause of ascites. Long-term infections with hepatitis C or B and long-term alcohol abuse are two of the most common causes of cirrhosis. There is also ascites formation as a result of cancers, called malignant ascites. These types of ascites are typically manifestations of advanced cancers of the organs in the abdominal cavity, such as, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, or ovarian cancer.

Other conditions which may lead to this problem include: clots in the veins of the liver, Congestive heart failure, Pancreatitis. Kidney dialysis may also be associated with ascites. There may be no symptoms associated with ascites especially if it is mild. As more fluid accumulates, increased abdominal girth and size are commonly seen. Abdominal pain, shortness of breath and pleural effusion can accrue.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Routine complete blood count (CBC), basic metabolic profile, liver enzymes, and coagulation should be performed. The condition that causes ascites will be treated, if possible.

Treatment may include: diuretics; antibiotics, if an infection develops; limiting salt in the diet (no more than 1,500 mg/day of sodium); avoiding drinking alcohol. Procedures used for ascites that do not respond to medical treatment include: placing a tube into the area to remove large volumes of fluid and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt. Patients who develop end-stage liver disease and no longer respond to treatment will need a liver transplant. ...