Secondary peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.
Secondary means it is due to another condition, most commonly the spread of an infection from the digestive tract.
Secondary peritonitis has several major causes. Bacteria may enter the peritoneum through a hole (perforation) in the gastrointestinal tract. Such a hole may be caused by a ruptured appendix, stomach ulcer, perforated colon, or injury, such as a gunshot or knife wound.
Secondary peritonitis can also occur when bile or chemicals released by the pancreas (pancreatic enzymes) leak into the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Foreign contaminants can also cause secondary peritonitis if they get into the peritoneal cavity. This can occur during use of peritoneal dialysis catheters or feeding tubes.
Inflammation of the peritoneal cavity caused by bacteria can result in infection of the bloodstream (sepsis) and severe illness.
Secondary peritonitis can also affect premature babies who have necrotizing enterocolitis.
Turnage RH, Richardson KA, Li BD, McDonald JC. Abdominal wall, umbilicus, peritoneum, mesenteries, omentum, and retroperitoneum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap 43.
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