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A to Z: Peritonitis

May also be called: Secondary Peritonitis; Spontaneous Peritonitis

Peritonitis (pare-uh-tow-NY-tis) is inflammation of the layer of tissue that covers the wall of the abdomen, as well as most of the organs in the abdomen.

More to Know

There are two kinds of peritonitis, spontaneous and secondary:

  • Spontaneous peritonitis is caused by an infection of fluid in the peritoneum (abdominal cavity), usually related to liver or kidney disease.
  • Secondary peritonitis happens when bacteria enter the peritoneum and cause an infection. Often this involves a hole (puncture) in the gastrointestinal tract. This can be the result of a ruptured appendix, perforated stomach ulcer, perforated intestines, or abdominal injury.

Untreated peritonitis can allow the infection to spread throughout the body and lead to sepsis. Peritonitis causes symptoms like abdominal pain, a bloated or firm abdomen, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Keep in Mind

Peritonitis is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment (which may include antibiotics and surgery). In most cases, if the peritonitis and any underlying conditions are diagnosed in their early stages, prompt treatment can lead to a full recovery.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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