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Peritonitis

Pronounced: peh-rit-oh-NYE-tis

Definition

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.

Causes
  • 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 of the liver.
  • 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 chances of peritonitis:

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:

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.

RESOURCES:

American College of Gastroenterology
http://patients.gi.org

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
http://www.cdhf.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References:

Bacterial peritonitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115066/Bacterial-peritonitis. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-liver-disease/spontaneous-bacterial-peritonitis-sbp. Updated May 2016. Accessed October 3, 2017.



Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board 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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