The management of ascites and hyponatremia in cirrhosis

Semin Liver Dis. 2008 Feb;28(1):43-58. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1040320.


Ascites is the most common complication of cirrhosis and is associated with an increased risk for the development of infections, dilutional hyponatremia, renal failure, and mortality. Cirrhotic patients who develop ascites and associated complications have a low probability of long-term survival without liver transplantation, and therefore should be referred for evaluation of liver transplantation. While the initial management of uncomplicated ascites with low-sodium diet and diuretic treatment is straightforward in the majority of patients, there is a group of patients who fail to respond to diuretics and develop refractory ascites. The development of specific associated complications such as dilutional hyponatremia may further challenge the management of patients with ascites. New pharmacological agents such as the V2 receptor antagonists, drugs that directly antagonize the effects of elevated plasma antidiuretic hormone levels, induce solute-free water diuresis and seem to be promising in the management of patients with cirrhosis, ascites, and dilutional hyponatremia. This article focuses on the pathophysiology, clinical consequences, current management, and new treatment modalities for ascites and dilutional hyponatremia in cirrhosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidiuretic Hormone Receptor Antagonists
  • Ascites / etiology
  • Ascites / therapy*
  • Benzazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted*
  • Diuretics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / etiology
  • Hyponatremia / therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Prognosis


  • Antidiuretic Hormone Receptor Antagonists
  • Benzazepines
  • Diuretics
  • conivaptan