Paracentesis is associated with reduced mortality in patients hospitalized with cirrhosis and ascites

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Mar;12(3):496-503.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.08.025. Epub 2013 Aug 24.


Background & aims: Diagnostic paracentesis is recommended for patients with cirrhosis who are admitted to the hospital for ascites or encephalopathy. However, it is not known whether clinicians in the United States adhere to this recommendation; a relationship between paracentesis and clinical outcome has not been reported. We analyzed a U.S. database to determine the frequency of paracentesis and its association with mortality.

Methods: The 2009 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (which contains data from approximately 8 million hospital discharges each year) was used to identify patients with cirrhosis and ascites who were admitted with a primary diagnosis of ascites or encephalopathy. In-hospital mortality, length of stay, and hospital charges were compared for those who did and did not undergo paracentesis. Outcomes were compared for those who received an early paracentesis (within 1 day of admission) and those who received one later.

Results: Of 17,711 eligible admissions, only 61% underwent paracentesis. In-hospital mortality was reduced by 24% among patients who underwent paracentesis (6.5% vs 8.5%; adjusted odds ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.41-0.74). Most paracenteses (66%) occurred ≤1 day after admission. In-hospital mortality was lower among patients who received early paracentesis than those who received it later (5.7% vs 8.1%, P = .049), although this difference was not significant after adjustment for confounders (odds ratio, 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 0.78-2.02). Among patients who underwent paracentesis, the mean hospital stay was 14% longer and hospital charges were 29% greater than for patients who did not receive the procedure.

Conclusions: Paracentesis is underused for patients admitted to the hospital with ascites; the procedure is associated with increased short-term survival. These data support practice guidelines derived from expert opinion. Studies are needed to identify barriers to guideline adherence.

Keywords: Health Services; Liver Fibrosis; NIS Analysis; Peritonitis; Quality of Health Care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ascites / mortality*
  • Ascites / surgery*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paracentesis / methods*
  • Paracentesis / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States