Malignant ascites: A review of prognostic factors, pathophysiology and therapeutic measures

World J Gastrointest Surg. 2012 Apr 27;4(4):87-95. doi: 10.4240/wjgs.v4.i4.87.


Malignant ascites indicates the presence of malignant cells in the peritoneal cavity and is a grave prognostic sign. While survival in this patient population is poor, averaging about 20 wk from time of diagnosis, quality of life can be improved through palliative procedures. Selecting the appropriate treatment modality remains a careful process, which should take into account potential risks and benefits and the life expectancy of the patient. Traditional therapies, including paracentesis, peritoneovenous shunt placement and diuretics, are successful and effective in varying degrees. After careful review of the patient's primary tumor origin, tumor biology, tumor stage, patient performance status and comorbidities, surgical debulking and intraperitoneal chemotherapy should be considered if the benefit of therapy outweighs the risk of operation because survival curves can be extended and palliation of symptomatic malignant ascites can be achieved in select patients. In patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis who do not qualify for surgical cytoreduction but suffer from the effects of malignant ascites, intraperitoneal chemotherapy can be safely and effectively administered via laparoscopic techniques. Short operative times, short hospital stays, low complication rates and ultimately symptomatic relief are the advantages of laparoscopically administering heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, making it not only a valuable treatment modality but also the most successful treatment modality for achieving palliative cure of malignant ascites.

Keywords: Carcinomatosis; HIPEC; Paracentesis; Peritoneal; Peritovenous shunts.