Peritonitis (per-i-to-NY-tis) is an injfammation * of the lining of the abdominal (ab-DOM-i-nal) cavity. The slippery lining has two layers and is called the peritoneum (per-i-to-NEE-um).
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What Is Peritonitis?
A number of conditions can cause peritonitis. Usually, peritonitis occurs when an infection develops in the peritoneum from a perforation (per-fo-RAY-shun), or hole, in the stomach, intestines, appendix, or one of the other organs covered by the lining. The perforation can come from a knife or gunshot wound or from a cut during surgery. People also can get peritonitis from complications of other illnesses, such as a ruptured appendix, diverticulitis (dy-ver-tik-yoo-LY-tis), a perforated ulcer, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In all of these cases, bacteria * can infect the peritoneum. People with cirrhosis (si-RO-sis) of the liver * sometimes get "spontaneous bacterial peritonitis," which means they have no rupture or obvious source for the infection.
* inflammation (in-fla-MAY-shun) is the body's response to infection or irritation.
* bacteria (bak-TEER-ee-a) are round, spiral, or rod-shaped single-celled microorganisms without a distinct nucleus that commonly multiply by cell division. Some types may cause disease in humans, animals, or plants.
* liver is a large organ located in the upper abdomen (AB-do-man) that has many functions, including storage and filtration of blood, secretion of bile, and participation in various metabolic (met-a-BOLL-ik) processes.
What Happens When People Get Peritonitis?
The symptoms of peritonitis range from mild to severe pain in the stomach area. Peritonitis often causes a muscle spasm in the abdominal wall, making the abdomen * feel hard and immobile, as if it were a wooden board. A person with peritonitis usually has a fever and may feel bloated. Vomiting and diarrhea * are common.
A doctor often can diagnose peritonitis through a physical examination of the patient. The diagnosis can be confirmed using abdominal x-rays or CT scans * . Occasionally, surgery is necessary to be certain that peritonitis is present.
The treatment of peritonitis usually includes surgery and antibiotics * . Surgery is performed to repair any ruptured organs that caused the infection as well as to drain the infectious fluids from the abdominal cavity. Antibiotics are used to treat the bacterial infection. Most people who get peritonitis recover fully after treatment.
* abdomen (AB-do-men), commonly called the belly, is the portion of the body between the chest or thorax (THOR-aks) and the pelvis.
* diarrhea (dy-a-REE-a) is abnormally frequent and liquid stool discharges.
* CT scans or CAT scans are the shortened name for computerized axial tomography (to-MOG-ra-fee), which uses computers to view structures inside the body.
* antibiotics (an-ly-by-OT-iks) are drugs that kill bacteria.
Slap, Gail B., and Martha M. Jablow. Teenage Health Care: The First Comprehensive Family Guide for the Preteen to Young Adult Years. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.