Peritoneal fluid culture

Alternative names
Culture - peritoneal fluid

Peritoneal fluid culture is a laboratory test performed on a sample of peritoneal fluid to isolate and identify the presence of microorganisms that cause infection (peritonitis). Peritoneal fluid is the fluid from the peritoneal cavity, a space between two membranes lining the abdominal cavity.

How the test is performed
The test is performed by paracentesis, a needle aspiration of the peritoneal cavity. A sample of fluid is sent to the laboratory for gram stain and culture preparation. The sample is examined regularly for the growth of microorganisms.

How to prepare for the test
Empty your bladder prior to the paracentesis procedure.

Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

How the test will feel
A small area in your abdomen will be cleaned with an antiseptic. You will also receive local anesthesia and may feel a stinging sensation from the shot. You will then feel pressure as the needle is inserted. If a large amount of fluid is withdrawn, you may have a feeling of dizziness or light-headedness.

Why the test is performed
The test is done to find out if there is an infection in the peritoneal space (peritonitis).

Normal Values
Peritoneal fluid is a sterile fluid, so normally no organisms are present.

What abnormal results mean
The growth of any microorganism such as bacteria or fungi from peritoneal fluid is abnormal and represents peritonitis.

What the risks are
There is a small risk of the needle puncturing the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel in the abdomen, possibly resulting in bowel perforation, bleeding, and infection.

Special considerations
The determination of peritonitis is not only based on a peritoneal fluid culture (which may remain negative even in the presence of peritonitis), but also on other clinical and laboratory parameters.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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