Fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites) is the most common
major complication of
cirrhosis. People who have alcoholiccirrhosis may
develop ascites early in the course of liver disease. Those who have other
forms of cirrhosis, such as that caused by viral hepatitis, may develop ascites
much later. The factors that cause fluid to accumulate in the abdomen are
complex, but high blood pressure in the portal vein system of the liver (portal hypertension) is an important contributor to
Treatment for ascites depends on the cause.
Paracentesis is a procedure used to collect and remove
some of the fluid to help determine what is causing it to build up. Having
ascites may lead to:
Extreme discomfort, including abdominal pain and
Infection of the ascitic fluid (spontaneous
Abdominal wall hernias, especially
umbilical hernias. An umbilical hernia occurs when tissue from the inside the
abdomen bulges out through a weak spot in the navel.
About 50% of people who have ascites caused by cirrhosis die within 2
years.1 However, 90% of people with ascites
caused by cirrhosis respond to treatment with a low-salt diet and medications
(diuretics) that eliminate extra fluid from the
Runyon BA (2006). Ascites and spontaneous
bacterial peritonitis. In M Feldman et al., eds., Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp.
1935-1964. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
January 22, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 22, 2010
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