What is ascites?

Ascites is the result of fluid building in the abdomen. It is very common in people with advanced cirrhosis of the liver.

Ascites can be uncomfortable and make it hard for people to breathe and eat normally. In addition, there is a risk of infection in the fluid, called spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), which can be life-threatening and is treated with antibiotics.

The main treatments for ascites and oedema are sodium restriction (low salt diet and diuretics, such as spironolactone and Furosemide). It can be helpful to see a dietitian about how to manage on such a strict diet. Some patients benefit from having the fluid drained off the abdomen with a needle and tube. This usually needs to be repeated every few weeks. Patients considered at higher risk of infection may be offered prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics to take every day.