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Peritoneal fluid culture

  • Definition
    • Peritoneal fluid culture is a laboratory test performed on a sample of peritoneal fluid to detect bacteria or fungi that cause infection (peritonitis).

      Peritoneal fluid is the fluid from the peritoneal cavity, a space between the wall of the abdomen and the organs inside.

  • Alternative Names
    • Culture - peritoneal fluid

  • How the Test is Performed
    • A sample of peritoneal fluid is needed. This sample is obtained using a procedure called an abdominal tap (paracentesis).

      A sample of fluid is sent to the laboratory for Gram stain and culture. The sample is checked to see if bacteria grows.

  • How to Prepare for the Test
    • Empty your bladder before your abdominal tap procedure.

  • How the Test will Feel
    • A small area in your lower abdomen will be cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). You will also receive local anesthesia. You will feel pressure as the needle is inserted. If a large amount of fluid is withdrawn, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded.

  • Why the Test is Performed
    • The test is done to find out if there is an infection in the peritoneal space.

  • Normal Results
    • Peritoneal fluid is a sterile fluid, so normally no bacteria or fungi are present.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean
    • The growth of any microorganism, such as bacteria or fungi, from peritoneal fluid is abnormal and indicates peritonitis.

  • Risks
    • There is a small risk of the needle puncturing the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel in the abdomen. This may result in bowel perforation, bleeding, and infection.

  • Considerations
    • The diagnosis of peritonitis is based on more than just the peritoneal fluid culture (which may be negative even if you have peritonitis).

  • References
    • Garcia-Tsao G. Cirrhosis and its sequelae. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 156.

      Runyon BA . Ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 91.