Definition of Ascites

Ascites – the accumulation of fluid within the peritoneal cavity. It is an abnormal condition that often accompanies chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis and liver disease of alcoholism.

Ascites sometimes also develops with heart failure, end-stage renal failure (esrf), ovarian cancer, and metastatic cancer that infiltrates abdominal structures. Typically causes little discomfort. Paracentesis, in which the doctor uses a needle and syringe to withdraw a sample of the fluid, can help to diagnose the cause of the ascites.

The doctor also may use paracentesis to withdraw large amounts of fluid to relieve the ascites. Other treatments include a very low sodium diet and diuretic medications to encourage the kidneys to withdraw larger amounts of fluid from the blood. Untreated or persistent ascites invites peritonitis, a potentially life-threatening infection.


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