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Definition Return to top
Ascites is excess fluid in the space between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs (the peritoneal cavity).
Causes Return to top
A person with ascites usually has severe liver disease. Ascites is caused by high pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) and low albumin levels.
Disorders that may be associated with ascites include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physical examination may reveal a swollen abdomen or belly.
Paracentesis may be performed. This procedure involves using a thin needle to pull fluid from the abdomen. The fluid is tested in various ways to determine the cause of ascites.
Treatment Return to top
The condition that causes ascites will be treated, if possible.
Treatment may include:
Procedures used for ascites that do not respond to medical treatment include:
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Anyone who has ascites and develops new abdominal pain and fever should contact their health care provider immediately.
References Return to top
Heidelbaugh JJ, Sherbondy M. Cirrhosis and chronic liver failure: part II. Complications and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74:767-776.
Salerno F, Cammà C, Enea M, Rössle M, Wong F. Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt for refractory ascites: a meta-analysis of individual patient data. Gastroenterology. 2007;133:825-834.
Schuppan D, Afdhal NH. Liver cirrhosis. Lancet. 2008;371:838-851.Update Date: 2/21/2009 Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.