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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Peritonitis

Acute abdomen

Last reviewed: April 9, 2014.

Peritonitis is an inflammation (irritation) of the peritoneum. This is the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.

Causes

Peritonitis is caused by a collection of blood, body fluids, or pus in the abdomen (intra-abdominal abscess).

Types of peritonitis are:

Symptoms

The belly (abdomen) is very painful or tender. The pain may become worse when the belly is touched or when you move.

Your belly may look or feel bloated. This is called abdominal distention.

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam. The abdomen is usually tender. It may feel firm or "board-like." Persons with peritonitis usually curl up or refuse to let anyone touch the area.

Blood tests, x-rays, and CT scans may be done. If there is a lot of fluid in the belly area, the doctor may use a needle to remove some and send it for testing.

Treatment

The cause must be identified and treated promptly. Treatment typically involves surgery and antibiotics.

Possible Complications

Peritonitis can be life-threatening and may cause complications. These depend on the type of peritonitis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of peritonitis.

References

  1. Badgwell B, Turnage RH. Abdominal Wall, umbilicus, peritoneum, mesenteries, omentum, and retroperitoneum. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 45.
  2. Prather C. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 144.

Review Date: 4/9/2014.

Reviewed by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Y‐set and double bag systems offer the most protection against peritonitis during continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)Y‐set and double bag systems offer the most protection against peritonitis during continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)
    People with advanced kidney disease may be treated with CAPD where a catheter is permanently inserted into the peritoneum (lining around abdominal contents) through the abdominal wall and sterile fluid is drained in and out a few times each day. The most common serious complication is infection of the peritoneum ‐ peritonitis. This may be caused by bacteria accidentally being transferred from the catheter. This review of trials compared three types of connecting systems (used to connect the bags and the catheter) and found the Y‐set and double bag exchange systems are the most effective in preventing peritonitis.
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Figures

  • Peritoneal sample.
    Abdominal organs.

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