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: PrimarySecondaryPeritoneal 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
(a treatment for kidney disease).
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Peritonitis may cause: Severe pain or tenderness in the abdomenPain in the abdomen that is worse with motionBloating of the abdomenConstipationFeverNausea and vomitingWeakness or lightheadednessShortness of breathRapid pulse or breathing rateDehydration—signs include dry skin and lips, decreased urine production
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include: Blood testsAnalysis of fluids from the peritoneum
Treatment depends on the cause. It may include: Surgery to repair openings in the skin surface or to remove damaged tissueAntibiotics to treat infectionReplacement of fluids
There are no current guidelines to prevent peritonitis.
Bacterial peritonitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 1, 2014. Accessed August 26, 2014.
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Peritonitis. Mayo Clinic website. Available at:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peritonitis/basics/definition/con-20032165. Updated July 2011. Accessed August 26, 2014.
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 August 2014 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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