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Learning About Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis

Position of peritoneum surrounding the organs in the body

What is spontaneous bacterial peritonitis?

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) is an infection of fluid that builds up in the belly. It causes pain and swelling inside the belly. It may also cause a fever.

This infection most often occurs when a person has had cirrhosis for a long time. It can also occur in people with other conditions that cause fluid to build up in the belly. These can include kidney failure, heart failure, and some cancers. Sometimes the fluid builds up without a clear cause.

This infection is serious. Even if your symptoms are mild, you need medical care right away. If it is not treated, the illness gets worse fast and can be life-threatening. But most people who are treated with antibiotics get better.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of SBP include:

  • Swelling of the belly, which may feel hard (rigid).
  • Severe pain and tenderness in the belly.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • A fever.
  • Confusion, memory loss, or feeling less alert.

How is it treated?

The infection is usually treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may do a procedure called paracentesis (say "pair-uh-sen-TEE-sus") to get a sample of fluid from your belly. The fluid can be tested to help find the cause of your symptoms. It can also help your doctor decide which medicines will work best to treat the infection.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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