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N Engl J Med. 1991 Sep 19;325(12):829-35.

Paracentesis with intravenous infusion of albumin as compared with peritoneovenous shunting in cirrhosis with refractory ascites.

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Liver Unit, Hospital Clínic i Provincial, Barcelona, Spain.



There is no satisfactory treatment for refractory ascites in patients with cirrhosis. Both peritoneovenous shunts and paracentesis have been used, but there is uncertainty about their relative merits.


We studied 89 patients with cirrhosis and refractory ascites who were randomly assigned to receive either repeated large-volume paracentesis plus intravenous albumin or a LeVeen peritoneovenous shunt. Patients in the paracentesis group in whom recurrent tense ascites developed during follow-up were treated with paracentesis, and those in the peritoneovenous-shunt group with diuretic agents or by the insertion of a new shunt if there was shunt obstruction.


During the first hospitalization, ascites was removed in all 41 patients in the paracentesis group and in 44 of the 48 patients in the peritoneovenous-shunt group. The mean (+/- SD) duration of hospitalization in the two groups was 11 +/- 5 and 19 +/- 9 days, respectively (P less than 0.01). There were no significant differences in the number of patients who had complications or died. During follow-up, 37 patients in each group were hospitalized again. In the paracentesis group, the number of rehospitalizations for any reason (174 vs. 97 in the peritoneovenous-shunt group) or for ascites (125 vs. 38) was significantly higher, and the median time to a first readmission for any reason (1 +/- 1 vs. 2 +/- 2 months) or for ascites (2 +/- 2 vs. 8 +/- 17 months) was significantly shorter than in the peritoneovenous-shunt group. The total times in the hospital during follow-up, however, were similar in the two groups (48 +/- 49 and 44 +/- 39 days, respectively). Three patients had obstructions of their peritoneovenous shunts during their first hospitalizations, and 15 patients had a total of 20 obstructions during follow-up. Survival was similar in both groups.


The LeVeen shunt and paracentesis are equally effective in relieving refractory ascites. The former may provide better long-term control of ascites, but shunt occlusion is common and survival is not improved.

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