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Ann Vasc Surg. 1991 May;5(3):247-52.

Chylous ascites following abdominal aortic surgery.

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Department of Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA, Torrance 90509.


Three patients, two women, one man (mean age 74 years), who had abdominal aortic aneurysms (2) or aortobifemoral surgery (1), developed chylous ascites postoperatively. They were studied to determine their clinical course and develop a plan for management of this complication. In each patient, the ascites was not manifest until abdominal swelling developed two weeks after operation, and the problem was confirmed by the finding of milky fluid on paracentesis. A low serum albumin (mean 2.6 gm) was also characteristic. The ascites was not altered by parenteral nutrition or reduction of dietary fat and ingestion of medium chain triglycerides. In one patient (man, age 93) the ascites resolved spontaneously two months after abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery. Another (woman, age 70) was cured following operative ligation of a lymphatic fistula identified at operation five weeks after abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. In the third (woman, age 60), the ascites resolved immediately following placement of a peritoneal venous shunt six weeks after an aortobifemoral bypass. Chylous ascites is rare after aortic surgery and manifests itself about two weeks after operation, at times after discharge from hospital. It has an indolent course, but may resolve spontaneously up to two months after operation. Its course appears not to be foreshortened by diet, including omission of fat, but can be successfully treated surgically with a shunt or fistula ligation. If done early a protracted hospital course may be avoided.

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