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Original research
Tunnelled peritoneal drainage catheter placement for the palliative management of refractory ascites in patients with liver cirrhosis
  1. Margaret Corrigan1,
  2. Rhodri Thomas2,
  3. Joanne McDonagh1,
  4. John Speakman3,
  5. Nadir Abbas1,
  6. Sara Bardell1,
  7. Fiona Thompson1,
  8. Andrew Holt1,
  9. Robert Jones2,
  10. Andrew Willis2,
  11. Salil Karkhanis2,
  12. Neil Rajoriya1,4
  1. 1 Liver Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Interventional Radiology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Supportive and Palliative Care, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Neil Rajoriya, Liver Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TH, UK; neil.rajoriya{at}


Objective Refractory ascites is an established indication for liver transplantation. While transplantation is regarded as the definitive therapy for this condition, many patients are unsuitable due to comorbidity or frailty. Alternatives such as transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPSS) and large-volume paracentesis can lead to complications, including encephalopathy, circulatory and renal dysfunction, and protein–calorie deficiency that may accelerate sarcopenia. Cost and complication rates limit therapies such as alfapump. While there are data to support the use of indwelling catheters in the management of patients with malignant ascites, there is limited evidence to support their routine use in the context of end-stage liver cirrhosis. Here we describe our centres’ experience using indwelling tunnelled ascitic drains over a 6-year period.

Methods A retrospective review of data (January 2012–May 2018) was undertaken for all patients with refractory ascites who underwent a tunnelled ascitic drain. Demographics, disease aetiology, procedure data and follow-up data were obtained through interrogation of electronic records and reports.

Results Twenty-five drains were placed. All procedures were technically successful with no immediate complications. Six patients were readmitted following their index admission with abdominal pain and suspected infected ascites (although only two had a positive ascitic fluid culture). There were three cases of abdominal wall cellulitis and three of leakage around the tunnel site; all managed conservatively.

Conclusion Indwelling drains appear an effective strategy for palliative management of select patients with liver cirrhosis complicated by refractory ascites who are not amenable to undergo TIPSS or transplantation. While complications can occur, these are most usually minor and can be managed on an outpatient basis.

  • ascites
  • cirrhosis

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  • MC and RT contributed equally.

  • Contributors MC, JMcD, JS, FT, AH, SK and NR were involved in the conception and planning of this paper. MC, RT, JMcD, NA, SB and SK were involved in the data acquisition and analysis. MC, RT, SK and NR were involved in creating the first draft of this paper. MC, RT, JS, FT, AH, RJ, AW, SK and NR were involved in redrafting the paper. MC, SK and NR revised the paper prior to final submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests AH has spoken at meetings sponsored by PleurX.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.