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.
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.
There are two main types of peritonitis:
- spontaneous peritonitis
- secondary peritonitis
Secondary peritonitis develops when an abdominal organ is infected or injured, and the infection spreads. Common causes include:
- diseases related to your digestive system,
- a ruptured appendix,
- pelvic inflammatory disease,
- perforations of the stomach, intestine, gallbladder or appendix
However, you might also have few or no symptoms.
If your symptoms seem to indicate 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.
Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition and requires urgent medical attention. A person with peritonitis can die within a few hours or days if not treated.
A diagnosis may be based on a physical examination, medical history, blood tests, scans or fluid analysis.
If you are diagnosed with peritonitis, it is likely you will 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: March 2018