What is ascites?

Ascites is the buildup of an abnormal amount of fluid inside the abdomen (belly). This is a common problem in patients with cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver. Approximately 80% of patients with cirrhosis of the liver develop ascites.

What causes ascites?

Ascites is the end result of a series of events. Cirrhosis of the liver is the most common cause of ascites. When cirrhosis occurs, blood flow through the liver is blocked. This blockage causes an increase in the pressure in the main vein (the portal vein) that delivers blood from the digestive organs to the liver. This condition is called portal hypertension. Ascites occurs when portal hypertension develops. The kidneys cannot rid the body of enough sodium (salt) through urine. Not being able to rid the body of salt causes fluids to build up in the abdomen, resulting in ascites.

What are the symptoms of ascites?

Most people who develop ascites develop a large belly and experience a rapid gain in weight. Some people also develop swelling of the ankles and shortness of breath.