Peritonitis - for peritoneal dialysis patients

What is peritonitis?

Peritonitis is a complication that may occur to a patient on peritoneal dialysis. It is an infection caused by bacteria (germs) that affects the peritoneal membrane of the abdominal cavity. It should not be confused with the more serious peritonitis that occurs as a result of a ruptured bowel.

What are the symptoms?

Patients usually first notice that their bag appears cloudy when performing a bag exchange. They may also experience some abdominal discomfort and feel generally unwell. If you think you have peritonitis, please contact your peritoneal dialysis unit so that treatment can be started as soon as possible.

How is it treated?

Peritonitis can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Initially you will receive one dose added to a bag and be asked to take a course of antibiotic tablets by mouth. At the same time, a specimen is taken from a cloudy bag and sent for to the laboratory for analysis. When the results of this analysis are known your treatment may need be changed.

How can I prevent peritonitis?

Prevention is better than cure. During your PD training you will have been shown how to carry out exchanges using a technique designed to minimise infection. It is important that you never relax this technique. In general:

Always wash your hands before and after performing a bag exchange. Good handwashing is an essential part of infection control.

Ensure that you carry out your bag exchanges in a clean environment

Always follow the procedure that you were taught for the equipment that you are using.

If you need a refresher course or advice, please contact your PD Unit who will be happy to help you.

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