Ascites is when fluid builds up in the abdomen. Chronic cirrhosis can increase pressure in the blood vessels inside the liver, forcing fluid to leak into the abdomen. Ascites can also be caused by the cancer itself blocking lymph vessels or producing extra fluid. The build-up of fluid causes swelling and pressure in the abdomen. This can be uncomfortable and may make you feel breathless.
A procedure called paracentesis or ascitic tap can provide relief. Your doctor will numb the skin on the abdomen with a local anaesthetic. Using ultrasound images as a guide, a radiologist inserts a thin needle and plastic tube into the abdomen. The tube is connected to a drainage bag outside your body. It will take a few hours for all the fluid to drain into the bag, and then the tube will be removed from your abdomen.
Water tablets (diuretics) are sometimes prescribed with paracentesis to slow down the build-up of fluid.
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Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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