Laparoscopy in the evaluation of women with unexplained ascites: an invaluable diagnostic tool

Polish Journal of Pathology. 2006;57(3):161-5. [Link]

Milingos S, Protopapas A, Papadimitriou C, Rodolakis A, Kallipolitis G, Skartados N, Markaki S, Dimopoulos MA, Antsaklis A.

1st Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Athens, Alexandra Hospital, Athens, Greece.


Study Objective: To assess whether laparoscopy is a reliable technique for the investigation of women presenting with ascites and in whom the diagnosis remains obscure.

Design: Prospective nonrandomized clinical study (Canadian Task Force classification II-2).

Setting: University Departments of a tertiary referral center.

Patients: Women presenting in our institution with ascites in whom the diagnosis remained obscure after an extensive nonoperative diagnostic work-up.

Intervention: Undiagnosed cases were submitted to laparoscopy, and selective biopsy specimens were taken for histologic study.

Measurements and Main Results: Over a 3-year period, 73 patients were admitted to our institution with diffuse ascites. In 9 patients (12.3%), the diagnosis remained obscure, and these patients were further investigated with laparoscopy. Selective biopsy specimens obtained at laparoscopy clarified the specific cause of the ascites in all 9 patients. Peritoneal carcinomatosis was responsible in 5 patients (a metastatic gastrointestinal tumor in 1 patient, a malignant mesothelioma of the peritoneum in 1 patient, and a serous papillary carcinoma of the peritoneum and of the ovary in 2 and 1 patients, respectively). Three patients were found with miliary peritoneal tuberculosis, and the last patient had an unusual peritoneal reaction to methylene blue after laparoscopic adhesiolysis.

Conclusion: Laparoscopy is a valuable means of assessing the peritoneal cavity in patients with unexplained ascites, where the primary cause remains unclear. The diagnosis can be accurately made with selective biopsy specimens, and appropriate treatment can be instituted without delay.