Ascites is a debilitating condition affecting patients with end-stage liver disease and advanced abdominal malignancies. Serial paracentesis can reduce symptoms in these patients; indwelling peritoneal catheters provide an alternative approach that allows patients to manage their symptoms at home. A literature search was conducted to identify studies with at least 20 patients published in the last 15 years that reported indwelling catheter placement in patients with chronic ascites. Fourteen studies with 957 patients (687 with malignancy and 270 with cirrhosis) were reviewed. Symptom improvement was reported in all studies. The most common complication in patients with malignant ascites was catheter dysfunction (39/687). Infection rates for patients with malignancy and patients with nonmalignant ascites were 5.4% (37/687) and 12.2% (33/270), respectively. Infection risk significantly increased with devices in place for >12 weeks. The average survival time after catheter placement was 7.2 weeks for patients with malignancy and 164 weeks for patients without malignancy. In conclusion, indwelling peritoneal catheters are an effective alternative to paracentesis for palliation in patients with refractory ascites. Peritonitis is a definite risk in patients with nonmalignant ascites in whom prolonged use is expected.
Keywords: Ascites; cirrhosis; complications; indwelling catheters; malignancy.