Management of Ascites in Patients with Cirrhosis: An Update

Link to article at PubMed

J Clin Med. 2021 Nov 10;10(22):5226. doi: 10.3390/jcm10225226.


Ascites represents a critical event in the natural history of liver cirrhosis. From a prognostic perspective, its occurrence marks the transition from the compensated to the decompensated stage of the disease, leading to an abrupt worsening of patients' life expectancy. Moreover, ascites heralds a turbulent clinical course, characterized by acute events and further complications, frequent hospitalizations, and eventually death. The pathophysiology of ascites classically relies on hemodynamic mechanisms, with effective hypovolemia as the pivotal event. Recent discoveries, however, integrated this hypothesis, proposing systemic inflammation and immune system dysregulation as key mechanisms. The mainstays of ascites treatment are represented by anti-mineralocorticoids and loop diuretics, and large volume paracentesis. When ascites reaches the stage of refractoriness, however, diuretics administration should be cautious due to the high risk of adverse events, and patients should be treated with periodic execution of paracentesis or with the placement of a trans-jugular intra-hepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). TIPS reduces portal hypertension, eases ascites control, and potentially modify the clinical course of the disease. Further studies are required to expand its indications and improve the management of complications. Long-term human albumin administration has been studied in two RCTs, with contradictory results, and remains a debated issue worldwide, despite a potential effectiveness both in ascites control and long-term survival. Other treatments (vaptans, vasoconstrictors, or implantable drainage systems) present some promising aspects but cannot be currently recommended outside clinical protocols or a case-by-case evaluation.

PMID:34830508 | PMC:PMC8621554 | DOI:10.3390/jcm10225226

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