• Peritoneovenous shunts (LeVeen) were placed in 52 patients with intractable ascites due to alcoholic cirrhosis between March 1975 and June 1978. The ascites was defined as intractable if it persisted despite at least six weeks of in-hospital medical management. Only 4.5% of such patients seen during this interval met this criterion by failing to respond to intensive drug and diet therapy. Eight (15%) died five to 60 days postoperatively; six of these did not undergo diuresis. Hepatic encephalopathy and sepsis were important contributing factors. There were 21 late deaths (mean survival, 16 months), primarily related to complications characteristic of this group of cirrhotics: upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage and infection. Twenty-three patients were alive by June 25, 1980, with mean survival of 46 months. Four patients operated on five or more years ago survive without ascites. An accurately placed LeVeen shunt dramatically relieves intractable ascites with improvement in renal function, nutrition, and general health. The operation enables at least partial rehabilitation so that ambulatory care becomes feasible for many of these chronically and seriously disabled patients.
(Arch Surg 1981;116:518-524)