Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum which lines the abdominal cavity. It is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.

Symptoms of Peritonitis

  • Nausea.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • High temperature.
  • Rapid heart beat.
  • Swollen stomach.
  • Jaundice (skin appears yellow).

What is Peritonitis?

Peritonitis is an inflammatory condition of the lining of the abdomen, caused by an infection. The infection can spread rapidly from the peritoneum to the blood and then the organs of the body. For this reason it is a medical emergency.

Peritonitis can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver - scarring often caused by alcohol abuse.
  • Peritoneal dialysis - a treatment for kidney failure.
  • Burst appendix.
  • Split stomach ulcer.
  • Knife or gunshort wounds.
  • Digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease.


If peritonitis is suspected the patient should be taken to hospital immediately.

On arrival at hospital a full examination will be conducted, as well as blood and urine tests to check for infections. Further investigations such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan may be used to get an image of the peritoneum to assess the extent of the damage.

Hospital treatment involves a series of injections with antibiotics or antifungal medicine to treat the infection. An operation may be required to treat any underlying causes or to remove seriously damaged parts of the peritoneum.