Pathophysiology of Ascites

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Cassandra Morinvil
11/28/12
Pathophysiology- GI Diseases

The Pathophysiology of Ascites

Ascites is defined as the condition where excess amount of fluid is abnormally accumulated in the abdomen. This gathering of fluid in the peritoneal cavity is also known as peritoneal fluid excess, peritoneal cavity fluid, hydro-peritoneum or abdominal dropsy. (Amadon MN, Arroyo V) The peritoneal cavity normally contains a few gallons of fluid which is naturally produced inside the abdomen. This peritoneal fluid is usually well-absorbed and does not normally accumulate. It circulates in a clockwise direction helping in the lubrication of intestines for their free movement. When the fluid is not absorbed and starts getting accumulated, it indicates that the cancer cells are interfering with the process of absorption. This results in the swelling of belly similar to that of pregnant women. (Amadon MN, Arroyo V) Ascites can occur due to complications like trauma, appendicitis, perforated ulcer, colon inflammation or diverticulitis. It is also commonly found to develop when bacteria, intestinal and pancreatic juices or bile invade the transparent and smooth membrane lying on the peritoneum. Ascites is also linked more often with liver disease and other similar chronic conditions. Ascites cirrhosis causes various changes that lead to weakness of kidneys affecting the excretion of sodium in urine. (Amadon MN, Arroyo V) Pancreatic Ascites is noticed when a cyst bursts causing the pancreatic juices to invade the abdominal cavity. Ascites cancer shares 10 percent of the reported cases in United States. Endocrine and renal ascites are some of the less common disorders. In case of Ascites ovarian cancer, the fluid contains freely-floating cancer cells separated from the cancerous growths.

Reference
Amadon MN, Arroyo V. Ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. In: Schiff ER, Sorrell MF, Maddrey WC, eds. Schiff's Diseases of the Liver. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott...
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