Ascites is known as the condition characterised by fluid building up inside the abdomen. It usually occurs when the liver stops working properly. Fluids then fill the space between the lining of the abdomen and the organs.

What causes it?

The most common cause is portal hypertension, i.e high blood pressure in the vein (portal vein) that brings blood to the liver. This problem is usually due to cirrhosis.

Symptoms of Ascites

Small amounts of fluid within the abdomen usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. Moderate amounts may increase your waist size and increase your weight. If large amounts of fluids build up, the abdomen becomes very large and tense which causes discomfort. The swollen abdomen puts pressure leading to:
– Loss of appetite and tiredness
– Pressure on the lungs and shortness of breath
– Appearance of hernias

Make an appointment

To make an appointment or to request more information, talk to our consultants at The Liver Centre WA: (08) 6163 2800


The first treatment for ascites caused by cirrhosis is a low-sodium diet and bed rest. Excess sodium comes from salt added to foods, mostly during processing. By reducing the salt intake, the body will start ridding itself of excess salt and fluid.
If the diet is ineffective, people are usually given diuretics that will stimulate the kidneys to excrete more sodium and water into the urine.
If ascites becomes very uncomfortable the excessive fluid may be removed through a needle inserted in the abdomen (therapeutic paracentesis). The fluid tends to reaccumulate unless you follow a low-sodium diet and take medication.
Patients with alcoholic liver disease should stop drinking alcohol immediately. This is the first step to minimise further liver damage. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, infection of the ascites, sometimes occurs among people with ascites and cirrhosis, especially alcoholics.


When a doctor taps the abdomen, and ascites is present, the fluid makes a dull sound. Should the abdomen be swollen because the intestines are distended with gas, the tapping will make a hollow sound. If doctors are uncertain whether it is present or not, they may do an ultrasound.

Make an Appointment



  • (08) 6163 2800

We’re located at
McCourt Street Medical Centre
1st Floor, Suite 10, 2 McCourt Street
West Leederville WA 6007

We also operate from
Northam Hospital Health Service
Outpatients Clinic, Robinson Street
Northam WA 6401

patient education

inguinal hernia


There are many online resources. We have collected some useful links for you.

Ascites on Wikipedia

Other links on this website:
Hep C
Liver Disease