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Ascites is excess fluid in the space between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs.
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:
Clots in the veins of the liver (portal vein thrombosis)
Congestive heart failure
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
The condition that causes ascites will be treated, if possible.
Treatment may include:
Diuretics, usually spironolactone (Aldactone) and furosemide (Lasix), which help remove the fluid
Antibiotics, if an infection develops
Limiting salt in the diet (no more than 1,500 mg/day of sodium)
Avoiding drinking alcohol
Procedures used for ascites that do not respond to medical treatment include:
Placing a tube into the area to drain the ascites
Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
Possible Complications Return to top
Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (a life-threatening infection of the ascites fluid)
Other complications of liver cirrhosis