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The use of peritoneal venous shunting for intractable neonatal ascites: a short case series.

INTRODUCTION: Intractable ascites in neonates has a varied etiology; and often, the cause is idiopathic. The management usually consists of observation, diuretics, paracentesis, albumin replacements, and self correction. However, in some cases, the above treatment remains unsuccessful.

RESULTS: We present 2 cases of intractable ascites causing metabolic abnormalities, severe protein and immunoglobulin loss, and respiratory compromise. Although the use of peritoneovenous shunts for intractable ascites has been reported previously, our cases differ in both technique and patient size. Our first patient is an ex-28-week premature, 1.4-kg infant with intractable ascites for which a peritoneal drain was initially placed. After 3 weeks and putting out nearly 300 mL of ascitic fluid daily, we placed a peritoneal venous shunt attached to a Medtronic pump. A 6.6F Broviac was placed through the Internal Jugular. The Medtronic pump was placed subcutaneously on the right chest. The pump was compressed 5 to 10 times every 8 hours, keeping fluid actively being infused from the belly to the vascular system. The second patient was 5 months old, 2.8 kg, with a course complicated by necrotizing enterocolitis, prolonged total parenteral nutrition, and progressive liver failure and underwent the same procedure. Both patients had dramatic responses to the shunting postoperatively, with clinical, radiographic, and laboratory evidence of resolution of the ascites. The first patient had the shunt removed at 6 months of age and continues to do well, whereas our second patient had no recurrence of the ascites, but died about 1 year later from cardiopulmonary complications.

CONCLUSION: These 2 cases demonstrate that peritoneovenous shunting, with the assistance of a Medtronic pump, is an effective treatment of intractable neonatal ascites and should be considered early in the course before complications develop.

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