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Inflammation of the peritoneum (peritonitis)


Inflammation of the peritoneum is more commonly called peritonitis. It is typically a bacterial infection affecting the peritoneal cavity. The peritoneum is composed of two layers, one lining the walls of the abdominal cavity, and the other surrounding the organs: the space between these two layers is defined as the peritoneal cavity, which is normally empty. It is a serious infection that can cause death if not promptly treated. This inflammation can be caused by perforation (usually by the appendix in the case of appendicitis) or the spreading of bacteria from an infected organ.


The main symptom of peritonitis is a pain that appears abruptly and is severe and lasting. Generally, inflammation of the peritoneum is accompanied by vomiting, constipation and signs associated with infection: fever, chills, low blood pressure, fatigue and increased heart rate. Due to the infection, there is usually a fever higher than 39∞ C. The stomach can be painful, initially locally, and sometimes becomes extremely hard and distended. This contraction is characteristic of peritonitis.


Several factors facilitate the diagnosis of peritonitis:
  • anamnesis (patient interview) that provides information on the conditions and feelings of pain;
  • examination of the patient and their symptoms:

o bowel sounds are absent,
o The patient is pale, tired and restricted in movements,
o his stomach is distended;
  • Blood tests revealing leukocytosis (increased white blood cell count, a sign of infection);
  • an X-ray may show the presence of air or liquid in the peritoneal cavity;
  • A CT scan is sometimes practiced and points to peritonitis.


The treatment of the inflammation of the peritoneum is surgical. It is first and foremost necessary to eliminate the infection and treat the pathology behind it. For example, in the case of a perforated appendicitis accompanied by the flowing of bacteria into the cavity, a doctor will begin by removing the appendix. Before the surgery, antibiotics are prescribed to fight against infection. The actual surgery will include cutting and removing all tissues that have been affected by the infection, followed by a flushing of the peritoneal cavity.

Prevention of inflammation of the peritoneum consists of the early management of its causes. Also, considering the fact that a significant number of cases of peritonitis are nosocomial (acquired at the hospital), good compliance with hygiene rules is essential.

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