Many diseases are known to result in the formation of free intra-abdominal fluid.1 Few data are available, however, concerning the diagnostic probabilities when a patient's outstanding physical finding is ascites. Therefore, we analyzed the clinical and autopsy records of 100 patients in whom ascites was the most conspicuous abnormality at the time of the final admission to the hospital. The results of the study form the basis of this report.
The study was carried out at The Jefferson Davis Hospital which serves the indigent sick of Harris County, Texas. The records of autopsies performed between 1950 and 1960 were reviewed. During that time, approximately 400 patients were found to have free fluid in the abdomen at necropsy. Of these patients, there were 100 in whom the physician's record made it clear that ascites was the predominant physical finding at the time of the final admission. The clinical and