What is peritonitis?

Peritonitis involves inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity. The condition is usually triggered by a bacterial or fungal infection.

It is important to note that the infection can rapidly spread from the peritoneum to the bloodstream and eventually into the bodily organs. Due to this, it is considered as a medical emergency.

Contributing factors

Peritonitis

Once an individual is suspected with peritonitis, he/she must be taken to the nearest emergency department.

  • Liver cirrhosis, particularly scarring due to alcohol abuse
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Peritoneal dialysis
  • Ruptured stomach ulcer
  • Knife or gunshot wounds

Indications

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Swollen stomach
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Jaundice

Management

Once an individual is suspected with peritonitis, he/she must be taken to the nearest emergency department. Upon arrival at a healthcare facility, the doctor will conduct a full assessment along with urine and blood tests to check for an infection. Other tests that might be required include CT scan, ultrasound or MRI to visualize the peritoneum for the extent of damage.

Treatment at the hospital includes a series of injections with antifungal medications or antibiotics to treat the infection. Surgery might be required to manage any underlying causes or to get rid of any significantly damaged parts in the peritoneum.

Possible complications

If peritonitis is not properly cared for or left untreated, the condition can spread beyond the peritoneum and cause the following:

  • Bacteremia or infection of the bloodstream
  • Sepsis or widespread infection in the body. This is a fast progressing, dangerous condition that can lead to shock and organ failure.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on peritonitis is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage sudden medical emergencies including peritonitis, register for a first aid and CPR course with Edmonton First Aid.

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