Peritonitis is an infection of the inner lining of your tummy. Left untreated, it can become life threatening.
Check if you have peritonitis
Symptoms of peritonitis include:
- tummy pain
- a very high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- a rapid heartbeat (your heart is beating more quickly than normal)
- not being able to pee or peeing much less than normal
You might also have:
- a lack of appetite and feel or be sick
- a swollen tummy
If you're having kidney dialysis treatment, the fluid in the collection bag might look cloudier than usual or contain white flecks.
Causes of peritonitis
The lining of the tummy (peritoneum) covers internal organs like the kidneys, liver and bowel.
If the lining becomes infected and you get peritonitis, the internal organs it covers can also be damaged.
This most often happens because of things like:
- a burst stomach ulcer
- a burst appendix
- digestive problems, such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis
- injury to the stomach
- pelvic inflammatory disease
Rarely, if bacteria gets into peritoneal dialysis equipment used to treat people with kidney failure, this can cause infection.
Treatment for peritonitis
If you're diagnosed with peritonitis, you'll need treatment in hospital to get rid of the infection.
Treatment usually involves being given antibiotics into a vein (intravenously).
If you have regular kidney dialysis, your doctor might discuss a different way of doing it until the peritonitis has been treated.
Help with eating during treatment
It can be difficult to digest food if you have peritonitis.
A feeding tube might be passed into your stomach through your nose or placed inside your stomach using keyhole surgery.
If a feeding tube cannot be used, liquid nutrients can be given directly into one of your veins.
Surgery for peritonitis
If part of your stomach lining has been seriously damaged by infection, you may need surgery to remove it.
Sometimes pus-filled swellings (abscesses) develop in the lining and need to be drained with a needle under local anaesthetic.
You might also need an operation to deal with the cause of the peritonitis. For example, a burst appendix will need to be removed.
Page last reviewed: 01 August 2023
Next review due: 01 August 2026