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Peritonitis is a life threatening bacterial or fungal infection of the peritoneum, which is the lining of your abdominal wall. The peritoneum covers the organs of your abdomen. You can get peritonitis by having a build-up of fluid within the abdomen, by having peritoneal dialysis, another infection within the abdomen or injury and inflammation to the abdomen.
As mentioned, peritonitis is life threatening and requires immediate attention to ward off further infection and to keep the infection from spreading to the bloodstream. The doctor needs to treat the underlying cause of the peritonitis so it doesn't keep spreading.
Signs and symptoms of peritonitis are abdominal tenderness and pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, bloating or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, abdominal distention, poor appetite, diarrhoea, thirst, low urine output, inability to pass stool or gas, and fatigue or cloudy dialysis fluid, clumps or strands of fibrin in the dialysis fluid (if you are on peritoneal dialysis). This is why it is important to use extremely good hygiene whenever you are doing peritoneal dialysis.
See a doctor if you recently had surgery or are on peritoneal dialysis and have fever, nausea and vomiting, thirst, low urine output and inability to pass stool or gas. The same is true if you have recently had a major trauma to your abdomen as peritonitis can come out of this, too.
Causes of peritonitis include surgery that ruptures a viscus such as the appendix or colon, a ruptured lower esophagus, peritoneal dialysis, and fluid build-up such as that seen in severe liver disease. Fluid buildup is called ascites and it can become infected at any time. Pancreatitis can cause inflammation of the pancreas as well as peritonitis. Trauma to the abdomen that ruptures a viscus or diverticulitis that causes bacteria to leak out into the abdominal wall can cause peritonitis.
People at risk for peritonitis include those on peritoneal dialysis, those who have medical conditions like pancreatitis, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, appendicitis and cirrhosis. If you�ve had peritonitis before, you are more likely to get peritonitis again in the future.
The main complication of peritonitis is sepsis or bacteremia, in which the bacteria spread to the bloodstream and cause a severe total body infection. Organ failure and shock result from the infection in the bloodstream.
The doctor diagnoses peritonitis through a careful physical and history. The abdomen is tender and there is often rebound tenderness, which is tenderness that is worse when the doctor lets up on pushing on the abdomen. There is fever and a high white blood cell count. The tenderness can be in a certain area of the abdomen but it eventually spreads to the entire abdomen.
Samples of the peritoneal fluid can be obtained through a needle and it can be cultured for bacteria or fungi. White blood cells in the peritoneal fluid can be indicative of peritonitis. X-ray can show gas in areas of the abdomen not identified as a viscus (free air in the abdomen). Blood tests can show increased white blood cell count and a CT scan of the abdomen can show a change in the anatomy of the peritoneum or an increase in peritoneal gas or fluid.
The treatment of peritonitis is to use one or more strong antibiotics to clear out the infection. If there are abscesses, they are drained out during a surgical procedure. The duration of the antibiotic therapy depends on the underlying cause and duration of the peritonitis. If an abscess is drained, you still need an antibiotic to clear out infection.
Hospitalization is almost always required if you have peritonitis. Supportive measures such as IV fluids and IV nutrition may need to be performed in order to keep you hydrated and fed while your bowel rests.
If you have suffered physically, mentally or financially, you should consider making an accident compensation claim. For telephone advice at no cost from specialist personal injury solicitors just call the helpline. Our peritonitis solicitors will assess the strength of your claim and will advise you on your potential award of compensation without any further obligation.LAWYER HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 339 958