Saturday, December 13, 2008


Ascites is the accumulation of excess fluid in the abdominal cavity. This condition can be treated, so if you think you have ascites, contact your doctor.

Ascites is usually caused by liver disorders, including:
• Cirrhosis –a disease in which the liver becomes permanently damaged
• Chronic hepatitis –an infection of the liver
• Severe alcoholic hepatitis without cirrhosis
• Obstruction of the hepatic vein (a blood vessel of the liver)
It can also be caused by:
• Cancer
• Heart failure
• Kidney failure
• Pancreatitis –a disease of the pancreas
• Tuberculosis –a contagious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs
Risk Factors
A risk factor is something that increases your chance for getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of having ascites. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:
• Alcoholism
If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to ascites. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
• Increased abdominal circumference
• Shortness of breath
• Abdominal pain and/or distention
• Pain in the side
• Rapid weight gain
• Difficulty breathing while lying flat
• Decreased appetite
• Heartburn
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:
• Ultrasound –a test that uses sound waves to examine the abdominal cavity
• Computed Tomography (CT) Scan –a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdominal cavity
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) –a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the abdominal cavity
• Laparoscopy –a thin, lighted tube inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to look at the structures inside the abdominal cavity
• Blood Tests
• Liver Biopsy –removal of a sample of liver tissue for testing
• Angiography –x-rays taken after a dye is injected into the arteries to better view the area being examined
• Diagnostic Paracentesis–removal and testing of fluid from the abdominal cavity
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Sodium Restriction and Diuretics
Most cases of ascites can be successfully treated with bed rest, a salt-restricted diet, and diuretic medications (drugs that cause the kidneys to excrete more water and urine).
Ascites can be treated by inserting a hollow needle into the abdomen and removing excess fluid through the needle.
To decrease the risk of ascites, take the following steps to help prevent cirrhosis, the most common cause of ascites:
• Drink alcohol in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women and two for men)
• Practice safe sex
• Do not share intravenous (IV) needles
• Get hepatitis vaccinations
• Take blood tests as recommended by your doctor when taking medications that may damage your liver
If you have had ascites, you can help prevent their reoccurrence by doing the following:
• Limit alcohol consumption
• Limit use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Restrict sodium intake
• Take diuretics as recommended by your doctor