To diagnose peritonitis, your doctor will talk with you about your medical history and perform a physical exam. When peritonitis is associated with peritoneal dialysis, your signs and symptoms, particularly cloudy dialysis fluid, may be enough for your doctor to diagnose the condition.
In cases of peritonitis in which the infection may be a result of other medical conditions (secondary peritonitis) or in which the infection arises from fluid buildup in your abdominal cavity (spontaneous peritonitis), your doctor may recommend the following tests to confirm a diagnosis:
- Blood tests. A sample of your blood may be drawn and sent to a lab to check for a high white blood cell count. A blood culture also may be performed to determine if there are bacteria in your blood.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may want to use an X-ray to check for holes or other perforations in your gastrointestinal tract. Ultrasound may also be used. In some cases, your doctor may use a computerized tomography (CT) scan instead of an X-ray.
- Peritoneal fluid analysis. Using a thin needle, your doctor may take a sample of the fluid in your peritoneum (paracentesis), especially if you receive peritoneal dialysis or have fluid in your abdomen from liver disease. If you have peritonitis, examination of this fluid may show an increased white blood cell count, which typically indicates an infection or inflammation. A culture of the fluid may also reveal the presence of bacteria.
The above tests may also be necessary if you're receiving peritoneal dialysis and a diagnosis of peritonitis is uncertain after a physical exam and an examination of the dialysis fluid.
March 31, 2015
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- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 24, 2015.
- Doherty GM, ed. Peritoneal Cavity. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Surgery. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed March 13, 2015.
- Goel GA, et al. Increased rate of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis among cirrhotic patients receiving pharmacologic acid suppression. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2012;10:422.
- Burkart JM, et al. Tunnel and peritoneal catheter exit site infections in continuous peritoneal dialysis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 13, 2015.
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