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There is a thin layer of tissue that covers the inside of your abdomen as well as most of its organs.  This layer of tissue is called the peritoneum.  When the peritoneum becomes infected or inflamed, it is called the peritonitis.  The inflammation can be caused by a bacterial or fungal infection and is related to having an injury to the abdomen, a treatment device like a dialysis catheter or feeding tube or to an underlying medical condition.  Peritonitis is very severe and requires immediate medical attention.  Usually antibiotic take care of the infection but surgery is sometimes necessary to get rid of infected tissue.  If it is not properly treated, it can become an infection that spreads and becomes life threatening.

There are two types of peritonitis—spontaneous peritonitis, which is caused by infection of the fluid located in the peritoneal cavity.  It can be related to kidney or liver failure.  If you are on peritoneal dialysis because of kidney failure, you are at risk for spontaneous peritonitis.


Secondary peritonitis is generally caused by an infection that has been spread from the digestive tract. This has a number of common causes:

  • An abdominal wound
  • Stomach ulcer
  • A ruptured appendix
  • A perforated colon
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Gallbladder infection
  • Crohn’s colitis

Peritonitis has a number of classic symptoms that every doctor should know about when it comes to the diagnosis of this disorder. These include abdominal tenderness, abdominal pain that is worse with touch or motion, abdominal bloating or distention, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, constipation, passing only small amounts of urine, excessive thirst, poor appetite, fever and chills, and fatigue.

The diagnosis of peritonitis can be tricky but time is of the essence because a delay could be life threatening. The diagnosis depends on taking a complete medical history and doing a thorough physical examination, focusing on the abdomen. Blood tests such as a white blood count can see how much inflammation is in the body.  A high white blood cell count indicates inflammation or, more likely, infection.  A blood culture can tell if the bacteria have spread to the blood and can identify the organism or organisms involved in the infection.  A doctor can perform a paracentesis to identify the bacteria in a collection of fluid in the abdomen.  A CT scan or x-ray can show free air in the abdomen, typical of perforations or holes in the peritoneum.

How is peritonitis treated?  Initially, you need to determine its underlying cause. This can help stop the disease at its source.  Usually multiple antibiotics are used to fight off the infection and pain medication are used to fight the pain.  Surgery is used to remove areas of abscess or things like a ruptured appendix.Treatment usually involves antibiotics to fight infection and medication for pain.The patient is supported with nutrition through an IV and breathing throughan endotracheal tube and respirator, if needed.  If not treated promptly, the infection can go to the bloodstream and can cause sepsis, shock and death.

Complications of spontaneous peritonitis include: hepatic encephalitis, hepatorenal syndrome and sepsis. Complications of secondary peritonitis include getting an abdominal abscess, getting gangrene in part of the bowel, getting intraperitoneal adhesions and getting septic shock.

The prognosis of peritonitis depends on the cause of the infection and on how quickly the doctor makes the diagnosis and begins treatment.  Usually, antibiotic therapy and surgery are able to get the infection in check.  The progression will depend on the cause of the infection and how far it has progressed before treatment started. Your overall health makes a great deal of difference when it comes to prognosis.

Prevention of peritonitis is important, especially in patients with peritoneal dialysis.  Hand washing is vital when handling tubing and the skin around the catheter is to be cleansed every day.  This can prevent peritoneal infection and peritonitis. For More Information Visit: Gynaecology Claim Lawyers

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