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Peritonitis - spontaneous

 

Definition

Peritonitis is swelling (inflammation) of the peritoneum -- the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers the abdominal organs.

Alternative Names

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP)

Causes

Spontaneous peritonitis is usually caused by ascites, a collection of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. This usually occurs from liver or kidney failure.

Risk factors for liver disease include alcoholic cirrhosis and other diseases that lead to cirrhosis, such as viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B or C).

Spontaneous peritonitis also occurs in patients who are on dialysis for kidney failure.

Signs and tests

Tests that show infection:

Other tests:

  • Abdominal imaging studies (to rule out other causes of abdominal pain)
  • WBC (nuclear) scan
Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The infection can usually be treated. However, kidney or liver disease may limit recovery.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of peritonitis. This can quickly become an emergency situation.

Treatments

Treatment depends on the cause of the peritonitis.

  • Surgery may be needed if peritonitis is caused by a foreign object, such as a catheter used in peritoneal dialysis.
  • Antibiotics may control infection in cases of spontaneous peritonitis with liver or kidney disease.
  • Intravenous therapy can treat dehydration.

You may need to stay in the hospital so health care providers can rule out other causes of peritonitis, such as appendicitis and diverticulitis.

Prevention

Patients with peritoneal catheters should be treated with sterile techniques. In cases of liver failure, antibiotics may help prevent peritonitis from coming back.

References

Runyon BA. Ascites and Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006: chap 88.


Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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