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How is ascites caused by cirrhosis treated?

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Quick Answer

Treatment options for ascites caused by cirrhosis include a low-salt diet, diuretic medications and the surgical procedure paracentesis, as listed by WebMD. A transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt or liver transplantation may also be needed.

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Approximately 90 percent of patients with ascites from cirrhosis respond to diuretics in combination with a low-salt diet, according to WebMD. Spironolactone and furosemide are examples of diuretic medications that help eliminate excess fluid from the body, and a low-sodium diet prevents buildup of abdominal and chest fluid. A doctor may perform paracentesis to determine the cause of the fluid buildup by removing a portion of the fluid, and he may perform this procedure for therapeutic purposes if the patient is experiencing extreme pain due to the ascites or is not responding to other treatments.

In some cases, the doctor may need to perform a TIPS procedure to reduce blood pressure in the portal vein system of the liver by redirecting blood flow, as stated by WebMD. A liver transplantation is also an option, although not all patients are acceptable candidates for this procedure. Ascites is the most common complication of cirrhosis, and the condition may lead to severe discomfort, pleural effusion, difficulty breathing and hernias of the abdominal wall if left untreated.

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