Within-line opportunities for selection against ascites were studied in a data set comprising a 10-line comparison. The study attempted to reveal whether contrasts between lines provide reliable candidate traits for within-line selection. Mortality was chosen as the reference trait. As no pedigree information was available, a trait was required that related mortality to the nonmortality data. By principal component analysis, such a trait (ASC_INDIC = ascites indicator) was developed from pathology data. The composite trait ASC_INDIC ranked lines well for their mortality figures (r = 0.96), from which it was concluded that ASC_INDIC represents an underlying continuous ascites trait. Between lines, blood gas traits seemed to be the most promising traits. Within lines, performance traits appeared to be highly correlated to ascites. Comparison of within-line variation to between-line contrasts revealed considerable differences. The high correlation of the blood gas traits with mortality was not present within lines. However, although the magnitude was considerably reduced, the nature of the blood gas traits in their relationship to ascites was similar within and between lines. The study primarily demonstrates that contrasts between lines carry systematic but limited information for within-line coherence. Therefore, line contrasts must be interpreted with care when aiming to study genetic variation and coherence within lines.