Peritonitis is an inflammation or infection of the peritoneum. The peritoneum is a thin tissue lining that covers the inside of the abdominal cavity. It also covers the outside of the intestines and other abdominal organs.
There are several types:
- Peritoneal dialysis related
Peritonitis is a serious condition. It requires immediate treatment. If not promptly treated, it can be fatal.
Primary peritonitis—occurs when there is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. This is called ascites . It is caused by chronic liver disease, among other conditions.
Secondary peritonitis—caused by bacteria that enter the abdominal cavity. Can be due to an injury or a condition, such as a ruptured appendix.
Dialysis-related peritonitis—caused by bacteria that enter the peritoneal cavity during or after peritoneal
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for peritonitis include:
- Abdominal penetration or trauma
- Immune compromise
- Blood in the abdomen
- Ruptured appendix
- Peptic ulcer
Symptoms may include:
- Severe pain or tenderness in the abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen that is worse with motion
- Bloating of the abdomen
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Analysis of fluids from the peritoneum
- Abdominal x-rays to look for signs of inflammation
- Laparotomy—surgery to open and examine the abdomen
Treatment depends on the cause. It may include:
- Surgery to repair openings in the skin surface or to remove damaged tissue
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Replacement of fluids
If you are diagnosed with peritonitis, follow your doctor's instructions .
American Gastroenterological Association
The American College of Gastroenterology
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG)
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine . Gale Group; 2000.
Textbook of Gastroenterology . 4th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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