Ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in patients with liver cirrhosis

Karel J van Erpecum
Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. Supplement 2006, (243): 79-84
Liver cirrhosis is a frequent phenomenon in chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, alcohol-related liver damage, autoimmune hepatitis and hemochromatosis. Ascites is the most frequent complication of cirrhosis. We discuss pathogenesis, diagnosis and state-of-the-art clinical management of ascites with emphasis on recent promising developments, such as covered transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis occurs in up to 10% of patients with ascites because of bacterial overgrowth with translocation through the increased permeable small intestinal wall and impaired defence mechanisms. The addition of albumin to standard antibiotic therapy may decrease mortality of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis by decreasing the incidence of renal insufficiency. Patients with coexistent marked hyperbilirubinaemia or pre-existent renal impairment could benefit from adjuvant albumin. Probiotics (bacterial food supplements) have been claimed to improve the state of underlying liver disease and may be useful in the primary and secondary prevention of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.

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