Right and left ventricular function was evaluated in 21 men with cirrhosis and tense ascites during staged removal of ascitic fluid. During paracentesis it was observed (1) that there was a significant increase in cardiac output, stroke volume, right and left ventricular stroke work and mean rate of systolic ejection; (2) that up to a certain stage of drainage (about 5,000 ml), there was a relationship between the amount of fluid removed and the intraabdominal and right atrial pressures and (3) that there was a direct relationship between improvement of cardiac function and normalization of right atrial pressure. It is believed that the increased intra-abdominal hydrostatic pressure acting upon the diaphragm affects the intrathoracic pressure to such an extent that the transmural filling pressure of the heart is reduced, and the mean pressure and respiratory pulsations of the right atrium increased, all of which impede venous return. Improved cardiac function during paracentesis appears to be due to an augmented filling of the heart and to a larger venous return.
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