Published online Mar 7, 2009. doi: 10.3748/wjg.15.1042
Revised: January 8, 2009
Accepted: January 15, 2009
Published online: March 7, 2009
Since its initial description in 1964, research has transformed spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) from a feared disease (with reported mortality of 90%) to a treatable complication of decompensated cirrhosis, albeit with steady prevalence and a high recurrence rate. Bacterial translocation, the key mechanism in the pathogenesis of SBP, is only possible because of the concurrent failure of defensive mechanisms in cirrhosis. Variants of SBP should be treated. Leucocyte esterase reagent strips have managed to shorten the ‘tap-to-shot’ time, while future studies should look into their combined use with ascitic fluid pH. Third generation cephalosporins are the antibiotic of choice because they have a number of advantages. Renal dysfunction has been shown to be an independent predictor of mortality in patients with SBP. Albumin is felt to reduce the risk of renal impairment by improving effective intravascular volume, and by helping to bind pro-inflammatory molecules. Following a single episode of SBP, patients should have long-term antibiotic prophylaxis and be considered for liver transplantation.