Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Peritonitis

2-minute read

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

Peritonitis causes

Spontaneous peritonitis occurs when a bacterial infection develops in the peritoneum. This can happen to anybody, but is more likely to happen in people with liver disease or kidney disease.

Secondary peritonitis develops when an abdominal organ is infected or injured, and the infection spreads. Common causes include:

Peritonitis symptoms

The most common symptom of peritonitis is severe abdominal pain. Other symptoms may include fever, inability to break wind, constipation, nausea and vomiting.

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 diagnosis

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.

Peritonitis treatment

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.

Last reviewed: March 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Peritonitis

Peritonitis is inflammation of the membranes of the abdominal wall and organs. Peritonitis is a life-threatening emergency that needs prompt medical treatment.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Appendicitis - myDr.com.au

Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. It usually starts with the main symptom of pain around the navel that moves to the lower right abdomen.

Read more on myDr website

Appendicitis (appendix pain, inflammation) information | myVMC

Appendicitis is the sudden onset of inflammation of the appendix. It causes severe abdominal pain and is treated with an operation to remove the appendix.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Peritoneal fluid analysis - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for a peritoneal fluid analysis

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Peritonitis - Better Health Channel

Peritonitis is a life-threatening emergency that needs prompt medical treatment.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Appendicitis in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Find out about appendicitis symptoms, and what to do if you think your child has appendicitis.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Appendicectomy (appendix removal) information | myVMC

Appendicectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the appendix from the abdomen. It is a treatment for acute appendicitis and tumours of the appendix.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Appendicitis | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is the appendix? The appendix is a coiled, 8- 12 cm tube attached to the caecum (the first part of the large intestine or bowel)

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

About ovarian, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer - Counterpart

Ovarian Cancer - About | Counterpart

Read more on Counterpart - Women supporting women with cancer website

Abscesses | myVMC

Medical information about abscesses, abscess peritonsillar, anal abscess, abscess perirectal, tooth abscess, abscess on buttocks and pus in abscess.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo