Peritonitis Diagnosis, Signs and Symptoms

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin membrane that lines the abdominal wall and covers the organs inside. The inflammation is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection of this membrane. There are two major types of peritonitis. Primary peritonitis is caused by the spread of an infection from the blood and lymph nodes to the peritoneum. This type of peritonitis is rare -- less than 1% of all cases of peritonitis. The more common type of peritonitis, called secondary peritonitis, happens when the infection comes into the peritoneum from the gastrointestinal or biliary tract. Both cases of peritonitis are very serious and can be life threatening if not treated quickly.

Peritonitis Diagnosis:

Peritonitis can be life threatening, so the doctor will first do a physical examination to see whether you need surgery to fix the underlying problem. The doctor will feel and press your abdomen to find any swelling and tenderness as well as signs that fluid has collected in the area. The doctor may also listen to bowel sounds and check for difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and signs of dehydration. The following procedures also may be performed:
  • Blood tests -- to see if there is bacteria in your blood
  • Samples of fluid from the abdomen -- identifies the bacteria causing the infection
  • CT scan -- identifies fluid in the abdomen, or an infected organ
  • X-rays -- detect air in the abdomen, which indicates that an organ may be torn or perforated

Peritonitis Signs and Symptoms:

The signs and symptoms of peritonitis include:
  • Swelling and tenderness in the abdomen with pain ranging from dull aches to severe, sharp pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced urine output
  • Not being able to pass gas or stool

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