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Ultrasonography in the diagnosis and monitoring of ascites in acute abdominal attacks of hereditary angioneurotic oedema

Farkas, Henriettea; Harmat, Georgeb; Kaposi, Pál N.c; Karádi, Istvánd; Fekete, Bélae; Füst, Georgef; Fáy, Kálmáng; Vass, Anikóg; Varga, Lilianh

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: October 2001 - Volume 13 - Issue 10 - p 1225-1230
Original Articles: Liver

Background Hereditary angioneurotic oedema (HAE) is a rare cause of ascites. As acute abdominal attacks of the disease can mimic surgical emergencies, prompt and accurate diagnosis is essential. This study was undertaken to evaluate the usefulness of serial abdominal ultrasound (US) examinations.

Patients and methods Seventy patients with HAE were followed up for almost a decade. All patients presenting with an acute oedematous attack underwent abdominal US, which was then repeated 24 and 48 h after appropriate therapy.

Results Twenty-two acute oedematous attacks with abdominal complaints severe enough to justify hospital admission occurred in the study population. Abdominal US performed during the attack showed oedematous thickening of the intestinal wall in 80% of cases and invariably demonstrated the presence of free peritoneal fluid in all patients. Rapid symptomatic relief achieved by treatment was accompanied by the significant regression of US abnormalities.

Conclusions Transitory ascites demonstrated by abdominal US is a clue to the diagnosis of an acute abdominal attack of HAE. The possibility of HAE should always be considered whenever unexplained abdominal pain recurs with or without ascites.

aKútvölgyi Clinical Centre, Allergology and Angio-oedema Outpatient Clinic, dKútvölgyi Clinical Centre,e3rd Department of Internal Medicine, f3rd Department of Internal Medicine, Research Laboratory, and gDepartment of Radiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary; bMadarász Street Children's Hospital, Budapest, Hungary; cNational Institute of Rheumatology & Physiotherapy, Department of Radiology, Budapest, Hungary; hNational Institute of Haematology and Immunology, Budapest, Hungary

Received 11 December 2000

Revised 30 January 2001

Accepted 21 April 2001

Correspondence to Dr Henriette Farkas, Semmelweis University, Kútvölgyi Clinical Centre, Allergology & Angio-oedema Outpatient Clinic, H-1125 Budapest, Kútvölgyi út 4, Hungary Tel: +36 1 355 1122; fax: +36 1 232 9351; e-mail:

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.