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Alternative namesAcute abdomen
DefinitionAn inflammation (irritation) of the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers the abdominal organs.
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsTypes of peritonitis include:
Signs and tests
Examination of the abdomen typically shows tenderness. The abdomen may feel firm and "board-like" and there may be extensive "guarding" (protective movements such as curling up or refusal to allow the abdomen to be touched).
Blood tests and X-rays or CT scans may be ordered.
The cause must be identified and treated promptly.
Treatment typically involves surgery and antibiotics. In cases associated with peritoneal dialysis, antibiotics may be infused through the dialysis catheter, but if the infection is severe, the catheter itself must often be removed.
Expectations (prognosis)The outcome is often good with treatment, but can be poor without treatment. Sometimes the outcome is poor even with prompt and adequate treatment.
ComplicationsPeritonitis can be life-threatening and cause a number of different complications, depending on the type.
Calling your health care provider
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms that may indicate peritonitis, as it is a medical emergency.
PreventionPrevention depends on the cause. See the specific types of peritonitis.
Update Date: 7/22/2002Julie A. Miller, M.D., Department of Surgery, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT