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Peritonitis - spontaneous


Peritonitis is inflammation of the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers the abdominal organs. This tissue is called the peritoneum.

Alternative Names

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP)


Spontaneous peritonitis usually results from ascites, a collection of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, which is usually related to 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 undergoing dialysis for kidney failure.


Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Chills

Exams and Tests

Tests that show infection:

  • Culture of peritoneal fluid
  • Chemical examination of peritoneal fluid
  • Peritoneal fluid analysis( paracentesis)
  • Cytologic examination (cell studies) of peritoneal fluid
  • Blood culture
Other tests that may be performed:
  • Abdominal imaging studies (to rule out other causes of abdominal pain)
  • WBC (nuclear) scan


Treatment depends on the cause of the peritonitis. Surgery may be needed in cases where peritonitis is associated with a foreign object, such as a peritoneal dialysis catheter. Antibiotics are administered to control infection in cases of spontaneous peritonitis in patients with liver or kidney disease, and dehydration is treated by intravenous therapy.

Hospitalization is common and may be necessary to rule out other causes of peritonitis such as appendicitis and diverticulitis.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The infection can usually be treated, but the extent of recovery is limited by the patient's underlying kidney or liver disease.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of peritonitis; this can quickly become an emergency situation!


In patients with peritoneal catheters, sterile techniques should be closely followed. In cases of liver failure, antibiotics may be used to prevent recurrences of peritonitis.

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