Treatment of cirrhotic ascitesTreatment of cirrhotic ascites
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Laboratory Experimental Medicine and Pediatrics (LEMP)
Acta gastro-enterologica belgica. - Bruxelles, 1946 - 1995
70(2007):2, p. 217-222
University of Antwerp
Cirrhosis is the most common cause of ascites and accounts for almost 85 % of all cases. It is the most common complication of cirrhosis, after development of ascites only 50% of patients will survive for 2 to 5 years. Successful treatment is dependent on accurate diagnosis of the cause of ascites. Because sodium and water retention is the basic abnormality leading to ascites formation, restriction of sodium intake and enhancing sodium excretion is the mainstay of the treatment of ascites. Patients with cirrhosis and ascites must limit sodium intake to 2 gram per day. Enhancement of sodium excretion can be accomplished by usage of oral diuretics. The recommended initial dose is spironolactone 100-200 mg/d and furosemide 20-40 mg/d. usual maximum doses are 400 mg/d of spironolactone and 160 mg/d of furosemide. The recommended weight loss in patients without peripheral edema is 300 to 500 g/d. There is no limit to the daily weight loss of patients who have edema. About 90% of patients respond well to medical therapy for ascites. Refractory ascites is defined as fluid overload that is unresponsive to sodium restricted diet and high dose diuretic treatment (diuretic resistant) or when there is an inability to reach maximal dose of diuretics because of adverse effects (diuretic-intractable). It has a poor prognosis. Treatment options for patients with refractory ascites are serial therapeutic paracentesis, transjugular intrahepatic stent-shunt (TIPS) or peritoneovenous shunt and liver transplantation. TIPS should be considered in patients who repeatedly fail large-volume paracentesis and have relatively preserved liver functions. Liver transplantation is the only modality that is associated with improved survival.