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Peritonitis

What is peritonitis?

Peritonitis is an infection caused by an inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum. The peritoneum, a thin, clear membrane, normally covers all the abdominal organs and the inside walls of the abdomen.

What causes peritonitis?

Most often, peritonitis is caused by the introduction of an infection from a perforation of the bowel such as a ruptured appendix or diverticulum. Other sources include perforations of the stomach, intestine, gallbladder, or appendix. Pelvic inflammatory disease in sexually active women is also a common cause of peritonitis. Peritonitis can also develop after surgery when bacteria can enter into the abdomen during an operation.

Treatment for peritonitis:

Specific treatment for peritonitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment of peritonitis is generally aimed at treating the underlying condition. Often, emergency exploratory surgery is needed, especially when appendicitis, a perforated peptic ulcer, or diverticulitis may be the cause of the infection. Prompt treatment is extremely important as major complications can occur quickly and peritonitis can be fatal if not treated right away.

Antibiotics are given immediately once peritonitis has been diagnosed. Sometimes, a tube is inserted through the nose into the stomach or intestine to drain fluid and gas. Intravenous (IV) fluids are also given to replace fluids that have been lost.