To compare the efficacy of three commonly used diuretic regimens in the treatment of ascites, we randomized 90 patients to three treatment groups: Sequential Spironolactone (spironolactone followed by furosemide if necessary), Combination (spironolactone and furosemide in combination), and Furosemide (furosemide given alone). Diuretics were begun at a low dose by mouth and the dosage increased until a 0.4-0.8 kg daily diuresis was achieved. The clinical and laboratory findings were comparable for the three experimental groups on admission to the study. All three regimens achieved a comparable rate of diuresis. To do so was far more difficult with furosemide alone, which required repetitious upward adjustments in dosage and massive KCl supplements. The incidence of encephalopathy, hepatorenal syndrome, and marked electrolyte abnormalities was simmilar for the three treatment groups except that severe hyperkalemia was more frequent on combination therapy. We conclude that diuresis should be initiated with one of the two spironolactone regimens and not with furosemide as the sole agent.
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