What is Peritonitis?

Peritonitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the peritoneum. The peritoneum is located inside the abdominal wall and covers the organs within the abdomen. Peritonitis us often caused by an infection which causes a rupture within the abdomen. It is important to treat peritonitis as soon as possible because it can result in serious complications.


Treating peritonitis usually requires treating the infection associated with it, as well as any other underlying conditions. To treat the condition, doctors will prescribe antibiotics. In more severe cases, surgery may be required. If peritonitis goes untreated, it can result in a life threatening infection in the body.

The signs and symptoms of peritonitis include abdominal pain or tenderness, bloating or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, low urine output, thirst, inability to pass stool or gas, and fatigue. For someone who has a severe case of peritonitis and is receiving peritoneal dialysis, the signs and symptoms may also include cloudy dialysis fluid, or hite flecks which are strands or clumps of fibrin in the dialysis fluid.

If peritonitis is not treated right away, it can be life-threatening. Make sure to seek immediate medical attention if you have the following symptoms: severe pain or tenderness of the abdomen, abdominal bloating, or a feeling of fullness associated with fever, nausea and vomiting, low urine output, thirst, or the inability to pass stool or gas.

The risk factors for peritonitis include peritoneal dialysis, having a history of peritonitis, or other conditions. People receiving peritoneal dialysis are at a greater risk of developing peritonitis. Having a history of peritonitis increases your risk of developing the condition again. Additionally, if you have had cirrhosis, appendicitis, Crohn's disease, stomach ulcers, diverticulitis or pancreatitis, you are also at an increased risk for developing peritonitis.

Peritonitis can be diagnosed using blood tests, imaging tests, or a peritoneal fluid analysis. Blood tests may include checking for a high white blood cell count, or a blood culture to check for bacteria. Imaging tests may include an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. A peritoneal fluid analysis involves using a thin needle to collect sample of the peritoneum fluid, and checking for a high white blood count or bacteria.

Treatment for peritonitis include antibiotics, surgery, or other treatments. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection. Surgery is usually done to get rid of any infected tissue, treat the underlying cause of the infection, and prevent the infection from spreading. Other treatments may include pain medications, intravenous fluids, supplemental oxygen and, in some cases, a blood transfusion.