Background/aims: Tense ascites of cirrhosis can be treated with total paracentesis; however, the short-term effects of this procedure are poorly defined.
Methods: The circulatory and humoral changes induced by total paracentesis (250 mL/min) were studied in 12 cirrhotics with tense, refractory ascites. Data were collected before, during, and after paracentesis and 24 hours later (after albumin infusion). Hormonal parameters were recorded again 48 hours and 6 days thereafter.
Results: Paracentesis (10.7 +/- 4.4 L; 64 +/- 20 minutes) caused marked reduction of intra-abdominal, intrathoracic, right atrial, and pulmonary pressures. Heart rate did not change. Cardiac output and heart volumes increased. Systemic vascular resistances and mean arterial pressure slightly decreased. Baseline plasma renin and aldosterone levels were markedly increased; a reduction was already evident during paracentesis with the lowest values at the end of the procedure. All changes were maintained 24 hours later. Hormones regained baseline levels 6 days later.
Conclusions: Rapid total paracentesis is accompanied by marked cardiovascular and humoral changes. Some of these changes can be explained by mechanical factors that are directly or indirectly related to the relief of abdominal pressure. However, other changes (systemic vasodilatation, humoral deactivation) have a non-mechanical nature and may depend on reflexes originating from cardiac volume receptor stimulation. Most changes may beneficially (albeit transiently) influence the cardiovascular system of cirrhotic patients with tense ascites.