Decreased effective circulating blood volume is an important factor in ascites formation in liver cirrhosis. We designed a "body compression" apparatus as a means to restore effective blood volume and investigated its effectiveness in reducing ascites formation in cirrhotics in terms of its effect on parameters of ascites formation noted below. The subjects, eight cirrhotics with ascites and eight cirrhotics without ascites were given spironolactone (50-75 mg/day) and furosemide (40-80 mg/day) while they received a diet containing 85 mEq of sodium per day. All four limbs and the lower abdomen were compressed with constant pressure [height (cm) divided by 13.6 mmHg] once, for 3h, using stroke rehabilitation splints, while patients lay supine. In cirrhotics both with and without ascites, urine volume, urinary sodium excretion, and creatinine clearance during the body compression were greater than values during control (non-compression) periods (urine volume, means 285 vs 169 ml/3h; P < 0.001, urinary sodium excretion 15.8 vs 9.5 mEq/3h; p < 0.001, creatinine clearance 74 vs 59 ml/min, P < 0.001, respectively). The increased basal plasma renin activity, angiotensin II, aldosterone, and norepinephrine levels in all cirrhotics were significantly decreased by the body compression. In another group of six cirrhotics who received no diuretics or albumin, repeat body compression alleviated ascites in three with well preserved renal function, but was ineffective in three with markedly impaired renal function. These results suggest that the improvement in renal function brought about by the body compression is attributable to an increase in effective circulating blood volume. This maneuver may be a useful complementary therapy in patients with cirrhotic ascites with well preserved renal function.