The clinical management of abdominal ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and hepatorenal syndrome: a review of current guidelines and recommendations

Marinos Pericleous, Alexander Sarnowski, Alice Moore, Rik Fijten, Murtaza Zaman
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2016, 28 (3): e10-8
Several pathogenic processes have been implicated in the development of abdominal ascites. Portal hypertension, most usually in the context of liver cirrhosis, can explain about 75% of the cases, whereas infective, inflammatory and infiltrative aetiologies can account for the rest. In this article, we discuss the consensus best practice as published by three professional bodies for the management of ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) and hepatorenal syndrome (HRS). The aim of this study was to compare available clinical guidelines and identify areas of agreement and conflict. We carried out a review of the guidance documentation published by three expert bodies including the British Society of Gastroenterology, the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), as well as a wider literature search for ascites, SBP and HRS. Abdominal ultrasonography, diagnostic paracentesis and ascitic fluid cultures are recommended by all three guidelines, especially when there is strong clinical suspicion for infection. EASL and AASLD advocate the use of ascitic amylase and mycobacterial cultures/PCR when there is strong suspicion for tuberculosis and pancreatitis, respectively. Ascitic cytology can be useful when cancer is suspected and has a good diagnostic yield if performed correctly. EASL supports the use of urinary electrolytes for all patients; however, the British Society of Gastroenterology and AASLD only recommend their use for therapy monitoring. All three societies recommend cefotaxime as the antibiotic of choice for SBP and large-volume paracentesis for the management of ascites greater than 5 l in volume. For HRS, cautious diuresis, volume expansion with albumin and the use of vasoactive drugs are recommended. There appears to be good concordance between recommendations by the European, American and British guidelines for the management of ascites and the possible complications arising from it.

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