Purpose: To determine diagnostic features of tuberculous peritonitis (TBP) in the absence and presence of chronic liver disease.
Patients and methods: Thirty-four patients with TBP (13 without [Group I] and 21 with chronic liver disease [Group II] and 26 controls with cirrhosis and uninfected ascites (Group III) were studied.
Results: The clinical features in Groups I and II were similar and all patients had elevated ascitic fluid total mononuclear cell count. In Groups I, II, and III, respectively, ascitic fluid protein was > 25 g/L in 100% (13/13), 70% (14/20), and 0% (0/26); serum-ascites albumin gradient (SAAG) was > 11 g/L in 0% (0/13), 52% (11/21), and 96% (25/26), (0% [0/13], 71% [15/21], and 96% [25/26] after correction for serum globulin); and ascitic fluid lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) level was > 90 U/L in 100% (12/12), 84% (16/19), and 0% (0/20), respectively. In Groups I and II combined, ascitic fluid acid-fast stain was negative in all but Mycobacterium tuberculosis culture was positive in 45% (10/22); peritoneal nodules occurred in 94% (31/33), granulomas in 93% (28/30), and positive peritoneal M tuberculosis culture in 63% (10/16).
Conclusions: In patients with suspected TBP, ascitic fluid protein of > 25 g/L, SAAG of < 11 g/L and LDH of > 90 U/L have high sensitivity for the disease. With coexistent chronic liver disease, a lower protein level and higher SAAG are usually not helpful but LDH > 90 U/L is a useful parameter for screening. Diagnosis is best confirmed by laparoscopy with peritoneal biopsy and M tuberculosis culture.