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Peritonitis

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 chronic liver disease, among other conditions.

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).

Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for peritonitis include:
  • Abdominal penetration or trauma
  • Immune compromise
  • Blood in the abdomen
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gangrene of the bowel
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Inflamed gallbladder
  • Recent surgery
  • Tubes or shunts in the abdomen
  • Cortisone drugs
Symptoms:
Symptoms may include:
  • 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 dizziness
  • 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, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
  • Blood tests
  • Analysis of fluids from the peritoneum
  • Abdominal x-rays to look for signs of inflammation
  • Laparotomy–surgery to open and examine the abdomen
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 guidelines for preventing peritonitis.
 
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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