Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen (tummy).

It is caused by an infection, which can rapidly spread around the body. Peritonitis requires immediate treatment and is a medical emergency. Signs of peritonitis often develop quickly and include:

  • sudden abdominal pain that becomes more severe
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • a lack of appetite
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • not passing any urine or passing less than normal

If you have this type of pain, contact your GP immediately. If this isn't possible, call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service .

Why peritonitis happens

Peritonitis is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection that either develops directly in the peritoneum or spreads from another part of the body.

Most cases of peritonitis are the result of infection or injury to another part of the body, such as:

  • a split Ulcer, peptic
  • a burst appendix
  • digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis

An infection that develops within the peritoneum isn't common and can be caused by:

  • cirrhosis scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage
  • peritoneal dialysis a widely used treatment for people with kidney failure

In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the peritoneum or treat the underlying cause of the infection.

Deaths are less common for peritonitis related to cirrhosis or kidney dialysis, but it's still a serious condition.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016