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Abstract

To investigate the long-term probability of the appearance of the first episode of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in cirrhosis with ascites and to identify predictors of this complication, we closely followed throughout their illness 127 patients consecutively admitted to our unit for the treatment of an episode of ascites without prior spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (follow-up period: 21 ± 22 mo). Thirteen patients (10%) had the first spontaneous bacterial peritonitis episode during follow-up. The appearance probability of this complication is 11% at 1 yr and 15% at 3 yr. Thirty-three variables obtained at admission (including clinical data, standard liver and kidney function test results, ascitic fluid protein concentrations and hemodynamic parameters) were analyzed in relation to their value in predicting spontaneous bacterial peritonitis development. In univariate analysis (Kaplan-Meier curves) five variables reached statistical significance (p < 0.05) as predictive factors for the development of the first spontaneous bacterial peritonitis episode. These five variables were poor nutritional status, increased serum bilirubin levels, increased serum AST levels, decreased prothrombin activity and reduced total protein concentration in ascitic fluid. When these five variables were introduced in a multivariate analysis, only the ascitic fluid protein concentration was found to correlate independently with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis development (p = 0.002). The probability of first spontaneous bacterial peritonitis after 3 yr of follow-up was 24% and 4% in patients with ascitic fluid protein content lower than 1 gm/dl and greater than or equal to 1 gm/dl, respectively. We concluded that the most important predictor of the development of the first spontaneous bacterial peritonitis episode in cirrhosis with ascites is the total protein concentration in ascitic fluid. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:724–727.)