Ascites, the commonest complication of cirrhosis, leads to frequent hospitalisations. Refractory ascites confers a median survival of 6 months without liver transplantation. In many, the management remains palliative (large-volume paracentesis). Despite calls for improvement, palliative and end-of-life care is not yet integrated into end-stage liver disease. Long-term abdominal drains are a palliative strategy in malignant ascites, but not end-stage liver disease.Case presentation:
A retrospective, single centre, case series review was performed of patients undergoing long-term abdominal drain placement for refractory ascites secondary to end-stage liver disease at a large teaching hospital between August 2011 and March 2013.Case management:
Patients with end-stage liver disease and refractory ascites, where liver transplantation was not an option, were considered for long-term abdominal drains. Seven patients underwent successful long-term abdominal drain insertion after multi-professional assessment.Case outcome:
Following long-term abdominal drain insertion, mean hospital attendances reduced to 1 (0–4) from 9 (4–21), with none for ascites management. Median survival after long-term abdominal drain insertion was 29 days (8–219). The complication rate was low and none life threatening.Conclusion:
Palliative and end-of-life care needs in end-stage liver disease remain under-addressed. Our data suggest that long-term abdominal drains may be a safe and effective palliative intervention in end-stage liver disease. Prospective randomised controlled trials comparing large-volume paracentesis versus long-term abdominal drains in refractory ascites secondary to end-stage liver disease are warranted.