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Laboratory investigation of peritoneal fluids: an updated practical approach based on the available evidence
  1. Giulia Colombo,
  2. Elena Aloisio,
  3. Mauro Panteghini
  1. Clinical Pathology Unit, ASST Fatebenefratelli-Sacco, Milano, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Giulia Colombo, Clinical Pathology Unit, ASST Fatebenefratelli-Sacco, Milano, Italy; giulia.colombo4{at}


Even though analysis of peritoneal fluids (PF) is often requested to medical laboratories for biochemical and morphological tests, there is still no mutual agreement on what the most appropriate way is to manage PF samples and which tests should be appropriately executed. In this update, we tried to identify the most useful tests for PF analysis to establish best practice indications. We performed a literature review and examined available guidelines to select the most appropriate tests by an evidence-based approach. Accordingly, the basic PF profile should include (1) serum to effusion albumin gradient and (2) automated cell counts with differential analysis. This profile allows to determine the PF nature, differentiating between ‘high-albumin gradient’ and ‘low-albumin gradient’ effusions, which helps to identify the pathophysiological process causing the ascites formation. Restricted to specific clinical situations, additional tests can be requested as follows: PF lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and glucose, to exclude (LDH) or confirm (glucose) secondary bacterial peritonitis; PF total protein, to differentiate ascites of cardiac origin from other causes; PF (pancreatic) amylase, for the identification of pancreatic ascites; PF bilirubin, when a choleperitoneum is suspected; PF triglycerides, in differentiating chylous from pseudochylous ascites and PF creatinine, to detect intraperitoneal urinary leakage.

  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases

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  • Handling editor Vikram Deshpande.

  • Contributors GC researched literature. GC and MP conceived the study. GC and EA cured data analysis. GC wrote the first draft of the manuscript. EA and MP supervised the study and reviewed and edited the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.