Peritonitis is an inflammation of the tissue covering the abdominal organs and abdominal walls. The inflammation is commonly caused by bacterial infection. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that needs urgent medical attention. A person with peritonitis can die within a few hours or days if not treated.
If you think you may have peritonitis, particularly if you use dialysis or know you are at risk because of an underlying condition, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance or go to a hospital emergency department.
What is peritonitis?
Peritonitis is an inflammation of the tissue that lines your abdominal walls. This is called the peritoneum, and it covers your stomach, liver and other organs in your digestive system.
Common causes include:
- diseases related to your digestive system,
- a ruptured appendix
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- dialysis for kidney disease
- lung infection
- Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- liver disease
- a pregnancy outside the womb
- injury to the stomach, intestine, oesophagus, gallbladder or appendix
However, you might also have few or no symptoms.
A diagnosis may be based on a physical examination, medical history, blood tests, scans or fluid analysis.
If you are diagnosed with peritonitis, you will need to be hospitalised for treatment.
Surgery may be carried out to repair any ruptured organs and antibiotics are also likely to be administered.
Depending on the nature of the peritonitis, the underlying cause may also need to be treated.
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Last reviewed: April 2020