What Is the Treatment for Ascites?

Clara Kedrek

Ascites, a condition in which fluid builds up in the abdominal cavity, can be treated in a number of different ways. One treatment that provides patients immediate relief is a procedure called a paracentesis, which directly removes fluid from the abdomen. The treatment for ascites can depend on the underlying reason why the fluid buildup occurred, as this should be addressed. Other treatments for ascites include giving medications called diuretics, maintaining a low-sodium diet, and restricting daily fluid intake.

Ascites causes fluid to build up in the abdomen.
Ascites causes fluid to build up in the abdomen.

Often the most effective short-term treatment for ascites is a procedure called a paracentesis, where a needle is inserted through the front of the abdomen and fluid is drained. This procedure can be done for diagnostic purposes, where the fluid is removed from the abdomen and tested in the laboratory to help determine why the fluid buildup occurred. It can also be done to reduce symptoms by decreasing the tension present in the abdomen, giving the patient some relief. Although a paracentesis effectively controls the symptoms of ascites, it does not address the reasons why the fluid built up in the abdomen. If a paracentesis is done without making any other changes in the treatment of the affected person, the fluid will build up again.

Patients with ascites are encouraged to limit their fluid intake.
Patients with ascites are encouraged to limit their fluid intake.

Doing an initial paracentesis for diagnostic purposes is an important aspect of the treatment for ascites. The evaluation of this fluid can yield important information that can help determine the reason the ascites developed. One of the most important aspects of treating ascites is to address the underlying disease process. For example, metastatic cancer can cause ascites, and this abdominal fluid collection will never be fully resolved until the cancer is treated. Similarly, if the ascites is due to liver disease, the health of the liver should be addressed in order to cure the ascites.

Medication may be available to treat ascites.
Medication may be available to treat ascites.

Part of the treatment for ascites often involves supplying the patient with medications called diuretics. These drugs help to increase urination, thus decreasing the total amount of fluid present in the body. Often two diuretics, called spironolactone and furosemide, are given on a daily basis to treat ascites. Patients given these medications should be monitored by a health care professional because they can cause imbalances in the blood concentration of minerals such as potassium and sodium.

Another aspect of treatment for ascites is altering the affected patient's diet. A low-sodium diet is a critical aspect of treatment because eating excess salt can lead to fluid retention, and thus worsening of the ascites. Patients should also limit their daily fluid intake to a certain extent. Typically they are advised to drink less than 50 ounces (1,500 milliliters) of fluids daily.

Individuals suffering from colon cancer are susceptible to developing malignant ascites.
Individuals suffering from colon cancer are susceptible to developing malignant ascites.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My great uncle died when he was 80 years old. His family was surprised to learn that he had cirrhosis of the liver and that was what was causing his ascites. After all, cirrhosis is associated with drinking too much alcohol and my uncle was not a heavy drinker. He didn't even drink beer regularly.

The cause of my uncle's liver problems turned out to be hepatitis. It was determined that he must have had the condition since his days in the military, but no one ever knew.


My father drank. He drank a lot. Though he was never treated for alcoholism, he was an alcoholic. He would get totally drunk every weekend and he also drank during the week. He drank every day. This is definitely what led to his cirrhosis of the liver. Treatment wasn't much of an option once he finally ended up in the hospital. He had waited much too late, and he had drank way too much.

His body was retaining water and he was so bloated that he hardly looked like himself. There was fluid buildup in is stomach area and throughout his body.


My aunt has diabetes. She was diagnosed with this condition several years ago, and she has continued to get more and more complications related to the disease. She has had to start dialysis because her liver is not working to remove the toxins from her body as well as it should be.

She has to go in to the medical center and have the liver failure treatments twice a week. In addition to getting the toxins out of her body, the dialysis machine removes the excess water from her blood. She also has recently developed ascites, and she is on a low sodium diet, which she was already on because of her high blood pressure.

Post your comments
Forgot password?