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Emergency Medical Minute


Aug 16, 2022

Contributor: Aaron Lessen, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Patients with recurrent ascites may need frequent outpatient or emergency department paracentesis which can be time consuming and uncomfortable for patients. 
  • Tunneled peritoneal catheters are a permanent alternative therapy which allows fluid drainage at home by patient or caregiver. 
  • There has been theoretical concern that long term placement of tunneled peritoneal catheters may increase risk of infection, thus they are more commonly placed as a palliative measure for patients with end stage cancer and malignant ascites with shorter anticipated life spans.
  • However, a recent small study found that in both patients with malignant ascites and recurrent ascites from cirrhosis, tunneled peritoneal catheter placement reduced symptoms from ascites and did not increase risk of infection or leakage at catheter site, or spontaneous bacterial peritonitis after four weeks. More research is emerging and tunneled peritoneal catheters may become more common.  


Kimer N, Riedel AN, Hobolth L, et al. Tunneled Peritoneal Catheter for Refractory Ascites in Cirrhosis: A Randomized Case-Series. Medicina (Kaunas). 2020;56(11):565. Published 2020 Oct 27. doi:10.3390/medicina56110565

Petzold G, Bremer SCB, Heuschert FC, et al. Tunnelled Peritoneal Catheter for Malignant Ascites-An Open-Label, Prospective, Observational Trial. Cancers (Basel). 2021;13(12):2926. Published 2021 Jun 11. doi:10.3390/cancers13122926

Corrigan M, Thomas R, McDonagh J, et al. Tunnelled peritoneal drainage catheter placement for the palliative management of refractory ascites in patients with liver cirrhosis. Frontline Gastroenterol. 2020;12(2):108-112. Published 2020 Feb 28. doi:10.1136/flgastro-2019-101332


Summarized by Kirsten Hughes, MS4 | Edited by John Spartz, MD & Erik Verzemnieks, MD


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