Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

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
Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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  Last Updated: 9/30/2013