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Alternative Names Return to topAcute abdomen
Definition Return to top
Peritonitis is an inflammation (irritation) of the peritoneum, the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers the abdominal organs.
Causes Return to top
A collection of pus in the abdomen, called an intra-abdominal abscess, may cause peritonitis.
See the specific types of peritonitis:
Symptoms Return to top
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical exam. The abdomen is usually tender, and may feel firm and "board-like." The patient may extensively "guard" the area, using protective movements such as curling up or refusing to allow the area to be touched.
Blood tests, x-rays, and CT scans may be ordered.
Treatment Return to top
The cause must be identified and treated promptly. Treatment typically involves surgery and antibiotics.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
With treatment, patients usually do well. Without treatment, the outcome is usually poor. However, in some cases, patients do poorly even with prompt and appropriate treatment.
Possible Complications Return to top
Peritonitis can be life threatening and may cause a number of different complications. Complications depend on the specific type of peritonitis.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of peritonitis.
Prevention Return to top
Prevention depends on the cause. See the specific types of peritonitis.
References Return to top
Turnage RH, Richardson KA, Li BD, McDonald JC. Abdominal Wall, Umbilicus, Peritoneum, Mesenteries, Omentum, and Retroperitoneum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap 43.Update Date: 7/22/2008 Updated by: Shimul A. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.