Clinical characteristics and outcome of cirrhotic patients with high protein concentrations in ascites: a prospective study

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The protein concentration in ascites is usually low in cirrhosis because capillarization and defenestration of the sinusoids limit diffusion of large proteins from plasma to the space of Disse. However, some cirrhotic patients have high-protein ascites (HPA).


The aim of this study was to describe and compare the characteristics and prognosis between cirrhotic patients with HPA (>20 g/l) and patients with low-protein ascites (LPA).

Patients and methods

In this longitudinal observational prospective cohort study, all consecutive cirrhotic patients with ascites hospitalized in our tertiary liver center were included and followed for up to 2 years, provided that they had no other cause of HPA. HPA was defined as protein concentrations of more than 20 g/l.


Among 107 patients included, 19 (17.8%) had HPA. HPA patients had more refractory ascites (63 vs. 34%), better liver functions, and a higher 1-year transplant-free survival rate compared with LPA patients (P<0.05). Portal hypertension parameters were not different. During follow-up, 47% of HPA patients were treated by transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts versus 18% of LPA patients, whereas 15 LPA patients required liver transplantation for end-stage liver disease versus only one HPA patient. We observed higher protein filtration and less pericellular, centrilobular, and sinusoidal fibrosis in cirrhotic HPA livers compared with LPA livers.


Almost 20% of cirrhotic patients with ascites have HPA (>20 g/l). These patients have better liver functions and a higher 1-year survival than those with LPA, even though ascites are more often refractory.

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