4th December, 20201 min read

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis

Medical reviewer:
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Lauretta Ihonor
Dr Lauretta Ihonor
Last reviewed: 01/12/2020
Medically reviewed

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Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is an infection of the fluid that builds up in the abdomen (ascites). It’s called ‘spontaneous’ because the infection usually has no obvious cause.

If you have it, you may develop symptoms, including:

  • tummy pain and tenderness
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • diarrhoea

But it’s common to have few or no symptoms at all.

How is spontaneous bacterial peritonitis diagnosed?

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is a medical emergency and you should go to hospital immediately if you have any of the above symptoms. In hospital, a doctor will usually ask you about your symptoms and other medical conditions you have or have had in the past.

They’ll examine your tummy and will typically use a thin needle to take a small sample of the fluid in your tummy to test for infection.

What is the treatment for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis?

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is usually treated with antibiotics. These can be given through a vein in your arm or as tablets.

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