Ascites is the build-up of fluid between the two layers of the peritoneum, or the membrane that lines the abdomen. It can be caused by cancer or by other medical conditions.
Ascites may develop if:
- cancer has spread to the peritoneum
- the liver is damaged or affected by cancer
- cancer is stopping the lymphatic system from functioning correctly
Ascites causes swelling of the abdomen. This can cause:
- pain and discomfort
- indigestion and loss of appetite
- dyspnea (shortness of breath)
To treat ascites, doctors usually make a small incision in the abdomen and insert a tube to drain the fluid. Local anesthesia is administered to the patient, so the procedure is painless. You may have to remain in the hospital overnight.
The fluid may build up once again, and you may have to undergo drainage once again if necessary. If the build-up happens faster, you may have a tube inserted which can be left in place so as to drain the fluid. Occasionally, a tube called a shunt is placed inside the abdomen.
Sometimes, the patient is given a diuretic to slow down fluid build-up.