Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 975–978

Peritoneal catheter for continuous drainage of ascites in advanced cancer patients


    • Pain Relief and Palliative Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer Center
  • Giuseppe Intravaia
    • Pain Relief and Palliative Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer Center
  • Patrizia Ferrera
    • Pain Relief and Palliative Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer Center
  • Patrizia Villari
    • Pain Relief and Palliative Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer Center
  • Fabrizio David
    • Pain Relief and Palliative Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer Center
Short Communiation

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-008-0453-x

Cite this article as:
Mercadante, S., Intravaia, G., Ferrera, P. et al. Support Care Cancer (2008) 16: 975. doi:10.1007/s00520-008-0453-x



Advanced cancer patients with refractory ascites do not often respond to dietary sodium restriction and diuretics. While paracentesis is effective, the condition invariably recurs, necessitating repeated procedures. A continuous peritoneal drainage by an indwelling catheter has been reported to be hugely beneficial symptomatically, avoiding the hazards and disadvantages of multiple repeated procedures and direct and indirect costs.

Materials and methods

Forty patients with advanced cancer patients admitted to an acute pain relief and palliative care unit, who presented symptomatic ascites, were recruited for continuous drainage of peritoneal fluid. A central venous catheter set for Seldinger technique was used. Technical failure was defined as an unsuccessful drainage of fluid through the catheter. Immediate and late complications, including hypotension, haemorrhage, tube blockage, dislodgment and sepsis were recorded. Record of daily drainage during admission were noted. At time of discharge, patients were asked to rate their global symptom burden as improved, unchanged or worsened. The follow-up was performed with frequent phone contacts or day-hospital admission in case of problems.


The mean patients’ age was 68 years, and 21 were men. Patients were receiving unsuccessfully a mean dose of furosemide of 32 mg/day. The technique was not painful and was easily accepted by patients. Insertion was technically successful in almost all patients. Mean admission time was 5.5 days (range 2–14), and the mean drained volume during admission was 8,499 ml (range 800–20,700), 2,850 ml (300–4,200) being drained on the first 24 h. No immediate complications were recorded. Six patients died during admission. The mean survival was 38.9 days (range 1–120). Of the 34 patients who were discharged home, 22 patients stated that symptom burden had improved, while in 10 patients symptom burden did not change or worsened, probably due to the advanced status of diseases and multiple contributing factors. Five, two, and one patients required skin sutures at 1, 2 and 3 months, respectively. About one third of patients had mechanical problems, some of them requiring a catheter replacement. No infection was recorded.


In conclusion, a permanent peritoneal catheter was a valuable method to remove abdominal fluids and reduce symptom burden attributable to ascites and was also easy to use at home. Complication rate was acceptable and balanced by the benefits of the technique which avoided frequent paracentesis and associated complications.


Malignant ascitesParacentesisPeritoneal drainagePalliative care

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008