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Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2000 Jul-Sep;63(3):260-3.

Chylous ascites: diagnosis, causes and treatment.

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Intensive Care Department, St. Luc University Hospital, Avenue Hippocrate 10, 1200 Brussels, Belgium.


Chylous ascites is a rare form of ascites and generally associated with a poor outcome since it is often secondary to neoplasms. Its true incidence is not well established in the general medico-surgical population. Any source of lymph vessels obstruction or leakage can potentially cause chylous effusions in the peritoneal or retroperitoneal cavities. Any type of cancer and lymph node involvement may be associated with this uncommon type of ascites. Traumatic, and mainly surgical, vessels leakage is the second most common source of chylous effusions. Other even more rare underlying conditions have been described as leading to chyloperitoneum. Large fluid volume losses together with proteins, and lymphocytes can induce additional morbidity in a previously debilitated population or severely ill patients. This includes organ dysfunction related to volume and electrolytes losses, but mainly secondary infections due to impaired immunity by antibodies and lymphocytes depletion. Even if a vast majority of chylous effusions shall heal spontaneously, early and full treatment has to be initiated in order to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with this condition. Adapted oral diet is to be introduced to reduce lymph flow. Low lipid, high medium-chain triglycerides alimentation is the first measure to implement. Total parenteral nutrition is to be reserved to failures of oral diet. In addition, paracentesis is indicated to improve patient comfort, reduce intra-adbominal pressure and secondary renal dysfunction. Somatostatin analogues have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing lymphorragia and may be proposed prior to consider the surgical approach. Direct lymph vessels ligation can be indicated for large lymph vessels leakage demonstrated by radiologic techniques and when medical treatment has failed. Peritoneo-venous shunt becomes a less common technique in refractory chylous effusion because of its high morbidity. Herein, the other causes of chylous effusions are reviewed as the diagnostic procedures. A treatment algorythm is proposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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