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 treatment for kidney disease).
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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for peritonitis include:
Symptoms may include:
- Severe pain or tenderness in the abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen that is worse with motion
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid pulse or breathing rate
- Dehydration—signs include dry skin and lips, decreased urine production
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
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
There are no guidelines for preventing peritonitis.
Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2005.
Olendorf D, Jeryan C, Boyden K.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Detroit, MI: Gale Group Research Company; 2000.
Townsend CM, et al. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 17th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2004.
Yamada T, Alpers DH, et al.
Textbook of Gastroenterology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Daus Mahnke, MD
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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