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Peritonitis can be the consequence of a perforation of the abdomen or complications of other pathologies. It is a condition that must be treated immediately, otherwise the patient runs the risk of developing a life-threatening infection.

According to an analytical report published in the MEDISAN Electronic Journal entitled “Prognostic factors for mortality due to secondary peritonitis in patients admitted to an intensive care unit”, it was pointed out that mortality due to peritonitis reaches 60%. This makes this condition a serious problem that should be treated as a matter of urgency.

What is peritonitis?

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the inner membrane of the abdomen (peritoneum). This inflammation causes a lot of pain and can be caused by a bacterial infection of an organ such as the appendix. It can also be caused by other pathologies, ulcers, internal wounds, etc.

It should be noted that, when bacterial infection occurs, the clinical picture becomes complex due to the presence of pus or fluids in the abdomen, which may affect the other organs.

Types of peritonitis

Peritonitis is divided into two groups or types, which depend on their cause. Below, we will indicate the two main types.

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. This type of peritonitis develops as a consequence of diseases of renal or hepatic origin, cirrhosis, ascites, among others. In general, there is an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which favors the presence of bacteria.

Secondary peritonitis. It develops due to rupture in the abdomen. That is, when the contents of the viscera invade the abdominal cavity (inflammation of the appendix). It is the most common. Of course, it can also develop due to strangulated hernias or other problems.

Causes of peritonitis

Regardless of the type of peritonitis, there is usually a perforation within the abdominal wall. This condition can develop from several causes.

Medical procedures. During dialysis, infection can develop due to contaminated equipment. At the same time, after gastrointestinal surgery or during colonoscopy or endoscopy, there is a risk of complications due to medical malpractice.
Pancreatitis. If the pancreas becomes inflamed and subsequently infected, peritonitis may develop.

Diverticulitis. Occurs when the pouches of the digestive tract rupture, spreading intestinal waste throughout the abdominal cavity.

Perforation of the appendix. This perforation in the gastrointestinal tract opens the way for bacteria. Similarly, a stomach ulcer or perforation of the colon can cause this hole.

Trauma. Injuries allow access of underlying bacteria to the peritoneum.

It is important to note that, in rare cases, peritonitis may develop without perforation of the abdomen. It may be caused by fluid accumulation.

Symptoms of peritonitis

Pay attention to the symptoms in order to seek medical attention immediately, because it requires emergency medicine.

Abdominal pain. Severe throbbing may be experienced.

Fever. Appears as a result of the infection and may last for several days.

Loss of appetite. Some patients have not felt the need to eat during the hours or even days of abdominal pain.

Thirst and inability to urinate. Small amounts of urine may be passed.

Disorientation and dizziness. The patient may feel bewildered and confused.

Inability to have a bowel movement or diarrhea.

Nausea and vomiting.


Complications of peritonitis

Acute peritonitis can cause serious health risks. As such, a doctor should be consulted as soon as symptoms begin to be experienced. If not treated immediately, it can be fatal.

Complications are as follows:

Respiratory failure
Liver failure
Acute renal failure
Septicemia (Sepsis). It can end a person’s life in a few hours.

Can peritonitis be prevented?

Some causes of this disease may be related to the use of medical equipment and lack of hygiene, such is the case of incorrect handling of the peritoneal dialysis catheter. In this sense, the following precautions can be taken:

Wash hands and nails before handling the catheter.

The skin around the catheter should be cleaned and disinfected using an antiseptic.

When you feel pain in the abdominal area, go to the doctor and avoid self-medication.

The greatest prevention is to attend to possible diseases related to this clinical picture. If good communication with the family doctor is maintained, it is possible to prevent this type of condition.

Treatments for peritonitis

The treatment for this condition may vary from one patient to another. In this regard, the health professional will be in charge of deciding which is the best treatment according to the clinical picture.


Medications are usually prescribed to fight the infection. The physician will decide the type of antibiotics, as well as the length of time. This treatment is intended to stabilize the patient.


Secondary peritonitis requires surgical intervention. It is an aggressive treatment in which the fluid or secretion is removed in order to prevent damage to other organs. It is an emergency intervention.

Other treatments

Your health care provider may perform additional medical tests, such as x-rays, to determine the most appropriate treatment. He or she may prescribe treatments to relieve symptoms, such as pain relievers. He or she may also order tests to determine the severity of the condition.



For special inquiries:        [email protected]