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If a family member has died as a result of a delay in the diagnosis or treatment of peritonitis.

What is Peritonitis

Peritonitis is an infection of the peritoneum - the membrane that acts as a liner covering the organs in the abdomen. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.

Common Causes of Peritonitis

Peritonitis generally arises due to a rupture or perforation of certain organs as a result of:

  • certain medical procedures such as
    • gastrointestinal surgery,
    • feeding tubes,
    • paracentesis (the withdrawal of fluid from the abdomen), or
    • peritoneal dialysis
  • ruptured appendix;
  • stomach ulcer;
  • perforated colon;
  • pancreatitis;
  • inflammatory bowel disease like
    • Chron's disease,
    • ulcerative colitis, or
    • diverticulitis
  • trauma.
Peritonitis can also occur without a perforation such as from ascitis (the build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity) due to advanced cirrhosis of the liver.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Peritonitis

The most common symptoms of peritonitis are those commonly associated with a severe infection and abdominal issues.

The symptoms of a Peritonitis in many cases consist of one or more of the following:

  • fever;
  • chills;
  • abdominal pain or tenderness;
  • bloating or a distended abdomen;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • loss of appetite;
  • sweating;
  • diarrhea;
  • inability to pass stool or gar;
  • low outputs of urine; and
  • fatigue.

Patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis may also exhibit the following:

  • the dialysis fluid is cloudy;
  • the dialysis fluid gives of an unusual odor; and
  • the dialysis fluid has white flecks, strands or clumps.

If a patient has substantial risk factors or exhibits symptoms the patient's physician should consider and rule out Peritonitis.

Diagnosing Peritonitis

Diagnostic testing for Peritonitis may include a through physical examination together with certain blood tests and imaging studies including:

  • blood tests
    • to check for elevated white blood cell counts and
    • the presence of infection;
  • Imaging tests to check for holes or perforations in the intestinal tract
    • X-ray to check for air in the abdomen
    • ultrasound
    • CT scan to check for fluid in the abdomen and sogns of infection
  • peritoneal fluid analysis

Because symptoms of a Peritonitis are non-specific, specific diagnostic tests are necessary to rule out the possibility of Peritonitis.

Treating Peritonitis

Treatment for Peritonitis typically includes the use of

  • surgery
    • to remove dead tissue
    • remove the source of infection (such as a burst appendix)
    • repair any ruptures and
    • prevent the from spreading;
  • antibiotics

Depending on the extent of the infection treatment may also include the use of intravenous (IV) fluids for hydration, oxygen, pain medication and blood transfusion. In cases involving peritoneal dialysis it may be necessary to use an alternate method of dialysis or stop it temporarily.

Prognosis Without Treatment

Without effective treatment, the infection will spread and eventually turn into sepsis. This can lead to organ failure and eventually result in the patient's death..

Medical Malpractice

Any undue delay in diagnosing or treating Peritonitis can have tragic consequences. Unfortunately, too often warning signs and symptoms are ignored, and treatment is delayed. The following are among the more common forms of negligence or medical malpractice by physicians and other health care providers in diagnosing and/or treating patients with Peritonitis:

  • Causing a rupture or perforation during a medical procedure
  • Failing to consider Peritonitis as a possibility
  • Failing to order appropriate blood test or imaging studies
  • Misreading the test results
  • Failing to order appropriate treatment for a patient with Peritonitis
  • Failing to follow-up with the patient
The above are only examples and are by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of acts of malpractice.

If a member of your family died as a result of Peritonitis and you suspect that medical malpractice may have been involved, you should immediately contact a competent attorney. The attorney will work with you to determine legal options that may be available.

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Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez, P.C.
Phone: (781) 461-9400
Toll Free: (866) 461-9400
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