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:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • 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 health conditions, such as cirrhosis (chronic liver disease).
  • 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 dialysis (a treatment for kidney disease).
  • Secondary Peritonitis

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    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of peritonitis include:

  • Abdominal penetration or trauma
  • Immune compromise
  • Blood in the abdomen
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gangrene of the bowel
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Inflamed gallbladder
  • Recent surgery
  • Tubes or shunts in the abdomen
  • Cortisone drugs
  • Symptoms

    Peritonitis may cause:

  • Severe pain or tenderness in the abdomen
  • Pain in the abdomen that is worse with motion
  • Bloating of the abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse or breathing rate
  • Dehydration—signs include dry skin and lips, decreased urine production
  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Analysis of fluids from the peritoneum
  • Abdominal x-rays
  • Laparotomy
  • Treatment

    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
  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent peritonitis.