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Peritonitis is the inflammation or irritation of the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers and supports most of the abdominal organs. Peritonitis is usually due to a bacterial or fungal infection, frequently due to an injury to the abdomen, an underlying medical problem or use of a treatment device. Peritonitis is considered a serious condition. Medical attention must be sought for immediately. Without immediate treatment, it may result to life-threatening complications.

Types and Causes of Peritonitis

There are two major types of peritonitis, each with different causes.

  • Primary Spontaneous Peritonitis: infection of fluid in the peritoneal cavity itself, which can result from:
    • Liver failure
    • Kidney failure
    • Individuals who undergo dialysis
  • Secondary Peritonitis: infection that has spread from the digestive tract or injury of the abdominal cavity, hence, infection did not originate from the cavity itself, which can result from:
    • Abdominal wound or injury, such as from knife and gunshot wound
    • Stomach ulcer
    • Ruptured appendix
    • Perforated colon
    • Pancreatitis
    • Gallbladder, intestinal or blood infection
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease
    • Cirrhosis of the liver or other liver disease
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Medical procedure, such as surgery, treatment for kidney failure, or use of a feeding tube

Symptoms of Peritonitis

Symptoms are not always the same for individuals. The symptoms that manifest will differ based on the underlying cause of the infection. The common symptoms of peritonitis are the following:

  • Dull abdominal pain that progresses into an intense abdominal pain that aggravates upon movement
  • Abdominal distension or tenderness
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and chills
  • Extreme thirst
  • Passing considerably less amount of urine than normal or incapable of passing urine at all
  • Having troubles to pass gas or have a bowel movement

Complications from Peritonitis

When peritonitis is not treated immediately, infection may enter the bloodstream and cause further damage to the body. Some of the possible complications that may develop include

  • Complications from primary spontaneous peritonitis
    • Hepatic encephalopathy
    • Hepatorenal syndrome
    • Sepsis, which may lead multiple organ failure, and eventually death
    • Shock
  • Complications from secondary peritonitis:
    • An abscess
    • Gangrenous bowel
    • Intraperitoneal adhesions
    • Septic shock

Treatment for Peritonitis

It is necessary to first identify the cause in order to give proper treatment. Once the symptoms of peritonitis are recognised, do not hesitate to call emergency medical assistance or bring the individual to the emergency room. Treatment will typically include:

  • Taking of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections
  • Taking of antifungal medications to treat fungal infections
    Peritonitis first aid class
    Peritonitis first aid class
  • Surgery for appendicitis, collection of pus, or infected bowels
  • Waiting for the infection to resolve before receiving more dialysis

It is highly suggested to take first aid courses to be able to recognise symptoms of emergency medical situations, as learning how to administer first aid and CPR may just save a life. To learn how to manage peritonitis and other medical emergencies, enrol in First Aid Training and CPR Courses.


Pietrangelo, Ann. (2012). Peritonitis.Healthline.Retrieved on October 6, 2013, from

Ratini, Melinda. (2013). Peritonitis.WebMD.Retrieved on October 6, 2013, from

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