Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin membrane that lines the inside of the abdominal cavity.
The peritoneum can become inflamed for various reasons. Infections of various types cause most cases of peritonitis. Peritonitis is quite painful, and often indicates the presence of a serious disease.
Most often, peritonitis is caused by an infection inside the abdomen. For example, appendicitis or other bowel infections can cause the problem. Other types of inflammation can also cause peritonitis without the presence of an infection. One of these is inflammation of pancreas, known as pancreatitis. Inflammation due to chemical irritants is another cause. Peritonitis can also be caused by irritation of the peritoneum from bleeding in the abdominal cavity, such as a ruptured ovarian cyst.
Symptoms of peritonitis can vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Most of the time symptoms include:
The healthcare provider will take a person's medical history and perform a physical exam. Sometimes further tests are needed to determine the underlying cause. These may include blood tests, x-rays and surgery for an abdominal exploration.
Nothing can be done to prevent this condition.
The long term effects of the disease depend on the underlying cause. For example, peritonitis that stems from a ruptured ovarian cyst will not have any long-term effects. If the condition is the result of infection, it may cause death.
There are generally no risks to others.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the condition. In mild cases, a person may need only rest and intravenous fluids. In severe cases, medications and urgent surgery may be needed to prevent death.
Medications can cause side effects such as allergic reactions, stomach upset, and other symptoms. Specific side effects depend on the medication used. Surgery carries the risks of bleeding, infection, and death.
No further treatment will be needed if the cause is corrected. For example, peritonitis brought on by an infected appendix will usually be cured by an appendectomy, or surgical removal of the appendix.
The cause of the condition will deterime how it is tracked. Methods include:
Author:Adam Brochert, MD
Editor:Slon, Stephanie, BA
Reviewer:William M. Boggs, MD
Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 1997, Sabiston et al.