Ascites – Excessive Peritoneal or Abdominal Fluid Retention

Ascites is an excess fluid retention or edema within the abdominal or peritoneal cavity, the membrane lining the abdominal organs and the abdomen itself.

A combination of low levels of albumin and elevated pressure of hepatic portal vein is the main cause of abdominal fluid retention. These conditions are usually aggravated from certain underlying diseases especially:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Maglinant diseases for example metastasis of stomach or ovary cancer
  • Liver disorder e.g. cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, portal vein thrombosis, etc.

It can also occur as a complication of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, abdominal surgery, pancreatitis, trauma and inflammation of the appendix, colon or peritoneum.

There’re many types of abdominal fluid retention or ascites based on the causes include:

  • Cirrhosis ascites: an abdominal dropsy because of cirrhosis of the liver
  • Pancreatic ascites: a condition where the pancreatic juices move into the abdominal cavity. This ascites is usually a complication of pancreatitis and trauma
  • Chylous ascites: the accumulation of the lymph fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • Maglinant ascites: an ascites as a result of peritonitis carcinomatosa (stomach cancer) and other advanced maglinant diseases such as cancer of ovary, colon, cervic, etc. See Ascites in Advanced Gastric Cancer.
  • Endocrine ascites: a rare peritoneal fluid retention (edema) due to endocrine system disorder
  • Renal ascites: a built-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity because of low levels of albumin in the blood

Symptoms of abdominal fluid retention

  • Increasing abdominal distention and discomfort
  • Shortness of breath because of the pressure from the abdominal cavity filled with fluid to the diaphragm
  • Pressing one side of the stomach result in a wave-like effect through the other side of the abdomen
  • Irregular swelling on the side of the body between ribs and hip
  • Rapid weight gain due to the water retention in the abdomen
  • Other symptoms might occur too because of the underlying disease such as swollen ankles and feet, chronic fatigue, etc.

Treatment of ascites

  • Ascites is often treated by reducing the abdominal fluid retention symptom and at the same time remedying the underlying disease. Restriction of salt intake, prescription of diuretics, limitation of water intake are some of the instructions and treatments the doctor might give to the patients to reduce the excessive abdominal edema.
  • For more severe ascites, the doctor might perform paracentesis, a procedure to remove excess fluid from the abdominal cavity by sucking it using a needle inserted into the peritoneum.
  • When paracentesis does not effective to reduce the excessive abdominal fluid retention, a peritoneovenous shunt might be inserted into the internal jugular vein to drain the abdominal fluid from the peritoneum.

Other symptoms might occur too because of the underlying disease such as