What is Peritonitis?

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen and the most common cover of the abdominal organs. It is usually caused by bacterial infections that spread from other organs to the peritoneum. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Peritonitis can be acute or chronic. Acute peritonitis may be caused by a ruptured appendix, a perforated ulcer, a ruptured diverticulum, or perforated intestine, and is often marked by abdominal pain, tenderness, guarding, rebound tenderness, abdominal rigidity, and fever. Chronic peritonitis is usually a result of an infection that has become entrenched in the peritoneal cavity. Treatment involves treating the underlying cause and using antibiotics.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for peritonitis include:

  • Recent abdominal surgery
  • Dialysis treatment
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Familial Mediterranean fever
  • Hernia repair surgery
  • Genetic disorders of the intestines
  • Immunosuppressive therapy


Diagnosis of peritonitis typically involves a physical examination and laboratory tests to check for infection and inflammation. These may include a complete blood count (CBC), a urine test, stool culture, and imaging tests such as an abdominal X-ray or CT scan.


Treatment for peritonitis usually involves a combination of antibiotics and surgery to remove the source of the infection. Surgery may be open, laparoscopic, or endoscopic. In some cases, nonsurgical treatments such as antifungal medications or nutritional support may be used.


Complications of peritonitis include:

  • Sepsis
  • Fluid and electrolyte imbalances
  • Organ damage
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Fistulas between the intestine and other organs
  • Abscesses


Peritonitis can be prevented by taking measures to avoid infection, such as practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowded places, and getting prompt treatment for any existing infection.