The Background: Nearly 50% of patients in the U.S. with cirrhotic liver disease develop ascites over a 10-year period of observation, placing them at risk for developing spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) (Runyon 2012). It is estimated that 12-25% of patients with ascites in the ED will have spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) but the classic triad of fever, abdominal pain, and worsening ascites is often absent (Borzio 2001)(Runyon 1988). With a mortality rate approaching 40%, rapid diagnosis and evidence-based treatment is critical in the management of patients presenting with SBP (Salerno 2013).
SBP is diagnosed via cell count and differential of ascitic fluid obtained by paracentesis demonstrating an elevated polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) count (≥ 250 cells/mm3). Treatment focuses on appropriate antibiotic therapy. A third-generation cephalosporin is the treatment of choice as they are typically effective in covering the three most common isolates from infected ascitic fluid: Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Streptococcus pneumonia (Runyon 2012). Intravenous albumin administration is often added to the management of these patients but the utility for improving morbidity and mortality is questionable. The benefit of albumin infusion in SBP is not entirely known, although multiple possible mechanisms have been identified. Albumin has been demonstrated to mitigate endotoxemia, block lipopolysaccharide-stimulated neutrophil activity, and modulate nitric oxide activity, mitigating systemic vasodilation and capillary leak (Salerno 2013). Read more →