Ascites Medication

Updated: Dec 29, 2017
  • Author: Rahil Shah, MD; Chief Editor: Praveen K Roy, MD, MSc  more...
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Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to reduce morbidity and to prevent complications in patients with ascites.

Diuretics should be initiated in patients whose ascites does not respond to sodium restriction. A useful regimen is to start with spironolactone at 100 mg/d. The addition of loop diuretics may be necessary in some cases to increase the natriuretic effect. If no response occurs after 4-5 days, the dosage may be increased stepwise up to spironolactone at 400 mg/d plus furosemide at 160 mg/d.



Class Summary

Diuretic agents are the mainstay of medical therapy in ascites.

Spironolactone (Aldactone)

For the management of edema resulting from excessive aldosterone excretion. Competes with aldosterone for receptor sites in distal renal tubules, increasing water excretion while retaining potassium and hydrogen ions. The peak effect of Aldactone is approximately 3 d.

Furosemide (Lasix)

Increases the excretion of water by interfering with chloride-binding cotransport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of Henle and distal renal tubule. Dose must be individualized to patient.

Depending on the response, administer at increments of 20-40 mg, no sooner than 6-8 h after the previous dose, until the desired diuresis occurs. When treating infants, titrate in increments of 1 mg/kg/dose until a satisfactory effect is achieved.

Amiloride (Midamor)

A pyrazine-carbonyl-guanidine unrelated chemically to other known antikaliuretic or diuretic agents. Potassium-conserving (antikaliuretic) drug which, compared with thiazide diuretics, possesses weak natriuretic, diuretic, and antihypertensive activity.

Metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)

Helps treat edema in congestive heart failure. Increases excretion of sodium, water, potassium, and hydrogen ions by inhibiting reabsorption of sodium in distal tubules. May be more effective in those with impaired renal function.

Mannitol (Osmitrol)

Inhibits tubular reabsorption of electrolytes by increasing the osmotic pressure of glomerular filtrate. Increases urinary output.