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Liver Transpl. 2000 Mar;6(2):157-62.

Ascites after liver transplantation.

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  • 1Liver Unit, Institut de Malalties Digestives, Hospital Clínic, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), University of Barcelona, Spain.


Massive ascites after liver transplantation, although uncommon, usually represents a serious adverse event. The pathogenesis of this complication has not been adequately investigated. To determine the incidence, characteristics, and pathogenic factors of massive ascites after liver transplantation (ascitic fluid > 500 mL/d for >10 days), the charts of 378 liver transplant recipients were reviewed. Massive ascites occurred in 25 patients (7%). Mean ascitic fluid production was 960 mL/d (range, 625 to 2,350 mL/d), and the duration of ascites was 77 days (range, 15 to 223 days). The ascitic fluid had a high protein content (36 +/- 7 g/L; range, 25 to 50 g/L). When patients who did and did not develop massive ascites were compared, significant differences were found in receptor sex (men, 88% v 60%, respectively; P <.01) and surgical technique (inferior vena cava preservation with piggyback technique, 72% v 41%; P <.01). Significantly increased wedged and free hepatic venous pressures and gradients between hepatic vein and right atrial pressures were found in patients who developed ascites, suggesting a difficulty in graft blood outflow. Massive ascites was associated with renal impairment, increased incidence of abdominal infection, prolonged hospitalization, and a tendency toward reduced survival. In conclusion, massive ascites after liver transplantation is relatively uncommon but associated with increased morbidity and mortality and is predominantly related to difficulties of hepatic venous drainage. Measurement of hepatic vein and atrial pressures to detect a significant gradient and correct possible alterations in hepatic vein outflow should be the first approach in the management of these patients.

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