How is the diagnosis of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) established?

Updated: Jul 23, 2019
  • Author: Brian J Daley, MD, MBA, FACS, FCCP, CNSC; Chief Editor: Praveen K Roy, MD, AGAF  more...
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The diagnosis of SBP is established when the polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) count is 250 cells/µL or greater in conjunction with a positive bacterial culture result. In most of these cases, as mentioned previously, cultures are positive for a single organism. Obviously, these patients should receive antibiotic therapy. Although up to 30% of cultures remain negative, most of these patients are presumed to have bacterial peritonitis; they should be treated. A significantly decreased peritoneal fluid glucose level (< 50 mg/dL), a peritoneal fluid LDH level much greater than the serum LDH, a peritoneal fluid WBC count greater than 10,000 cells/µL, a pH lower than 7.0, high amylase levels, multiple organisms on Gram stain, or recovery of anaerobes from the culture raises the suspicion of SP in these patients. Some authors recommend repeating the paracentesis in 48-72 hours to monitor treatment success (decrease in neutrophil count to < 50% of the original value).

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