Abdominal Infection


The abdominal cavity of the human body lies between the chest cavity and the pelvic region. Within the abdominal cavity, lie various vital organs such as the stomach, liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine and the large intestine. These organs play a vital role in breaking down the food we ingest and help in the assimilation of nutrients. If any of the organs get exposed to pathogens or get damaged due to trauma, one becomes susceptible to an abdominal infection. Given below are some of the medical conditions that may cause an infection in the abdominal region.

Causes of an Infection in the Abdomen

Peritonitis refers to the inflammation of the peritoneum or the membrane that lines the abdominal wall. Such a membrane also covers the viscera or the internal organs located within the abdominal cavity. The inflammation may be a result of bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. Various medical conditions can make one susceptible to peritonitis. These include gastritis, stomach ulcers, inflamed gallbladder or a perforated bowel. Gastritis refers to the inflammation of the lining of the stomach. This occurs when the stomach gets infected with bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Consumption of contaminated food or water is one of the most common causes of bacterial, parasitic or a viral stomach infection. Stomach ulcers, on the other hand, are mainly attributed to an abnormal growth of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Prolonged use of certain drugs can also make one vulnerable to developing ulcers. Penetrating trauma to the abdomen can also cause the skin to break and this may give pathogens a chance to enter into the body. If the surgical instruments have not been sterilized, one may suffer from a blood infection after surgery. This is the reason why surgeons must take all possible precautions while they make incisions into the abdomen during a surgery.

Pancreas, gallbladder, liver and spleen can also get inflamed due to a wide range of reasons. Inflammation of the gallbladder is usually caused due to formation of hardened stone-like deposits that are formed due to crystallization of cholesterol or bile pigments. This condition is mainly attributed to consumption of foods rich in cholesterol. Formation of gallstones can affect the release of bile and adversely impact the digestive process. It can also make one susceptible to peritonitis. Inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can increase the risk of intestinal perforation. A hole in the intestine can cause the wastes to leak out, which in turn, can infect the abdomen. An inflamed or ruptured appendix or a diverticulum could also lead to the formation of intra-abdominal abscess. An intra-abdominal abscess is an infected pocket of pus or an infected fluid inside the abdomen. While abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of an infection to the abdomen, one may also experience abdominal distension, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bowel problems, bloating, weakness, fever, chills or lack of appetite. If the infection is not treated soon, one may face a life-threatening situation due to sepsis or septic shock.

Treatment of an Infection in the Abdomen

Complete blood test, blood culture along with imaging procedures such as X-rays, ultrasound or CT scan are usually performed in order to identify the underlying cause of an infected abdomen. If tests reveal fluid buildup in the peritoneal cavity, the fluid would be tested in order to identify the pathogen responsible for causing an infection. If the presence of bacteria has been detected, antibiotic therapy should be initiated immediately. Antibiotics are given prior to the surgery, and should be continued after surgery as well. If the patient’s condition is deteriorating, he/she may need to be hospitalized, and antibiotics or other drugs would be administered intravenously so as to kill the bacteria or other pathogens and prevent them from growing any further.

Administration of antibiotics lowers the risk of an infection to the abdomen after surgery. If pus or fluid has accumulated in the abdominal cavity, debridement would be needed. Debridement refers to the removal of the infected fluid or dead tissues from the peritoneal cavity. The abdominal cavity would also be flushed with antibacterial cleansers. Intravenous administration of fluids may also be needed. Drugs would be administered depending on the symptoms exhibited by the patient. If one suffered from respiratory distress due to the infection, mechanical ventilation would be required. Since an infected abdomen can be caused due to a wide range of reasons, it’s important that the underlying cause is identified and treated at the earliest. Steps would need to be taken to avert organ failure and surgical intervention would be needed in severe cases.

In absence of a timely treatment, an intra-abdominal abscess or infection to the abdomen can even lead to blood poisoning or organ failure. It is therefore, essential that a person suffering from aforementioned symptoms, must get a thorough medical checkup done immediately. A timely treatment would help in averting organ failure and help one recover from infection.