Ascites causes a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, making your belly look distended and causing pain and discomfort. Meade Edmunds, MD, and his team at Edmunds Gastroenterology in Knoxville, Tennessee, are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating ascites and its underlying causes. If you have abdominal swelling or any problems with your digestive system, call the office today to schedule a consultation, or book an appointment online.
Ascites is a condition that results in the accumulation of fluid within the abdominal cavity. This is often due to underlying liver disease but can be due to other causes, such as heart failure, underlying cancer, malnutrition, and intra-abdominal infections.
In the early stages, ascites may only present as abdominal fullness or bloating, often in the setting of weight gain. As it progresses, however, there is an increase in the amount of abdominal distention and abdominal pain. Other symptoms may occur, including:
Lower extremity swelling and accumulation of fluid in the lungs are also associated conditions of ascites.
Ascites is typically diagnosed radiographically with either ultrasound or CT scan. Physical examination may suggest a diagnosis of ascites by finding a distended abdomen with flank dullness, and a fluid wave.
Flank dullness is assessed by performing a series of resonance tests in which Dr. Edmunds taps the abdomen and listens to the sound to evaluate whether there is a significant level of fluid within the abdominal cavity.
A fluid wave is another manual test which Dr. Edmunds carries out to see if fluid in the abdomen is at a high enough level to transfer sound waves from one side of the abdomen to the other.
Typically, ascites is first treated by restricting patients to a low-sodium diet, as well as a decrease in overall daily fluid consumption. If this doesn’t work, then medication can be added to help the patient pass extra fluid from their body through urine.
If the ascites doesn’t resolve, then a small needle can be placed in the abdomen after local anesthetics, and the fluid can be withdrawn, thereby relieving some of the patient’s symptoms. This procedure is called paracentesis, which can also help with diagnosing the cause of the ascites and help assess for underlying abdominal infection and cancer.
If you have a swollen abdomen or any other symptoms of ascites, call Edmunds Gastroenterology, or book an appointment online.
This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please consult with your primary care physician or a specialist regarding your symptoms.