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Peritonitis From Peritoneal Dialysis: Care Instructions

The process of peritoneal dialysis


Peritonitis is an infection of the lining of the belly (peritoneum). It causes pain and swelling inside the belly. It may also cause a fever. The infection can be serious and needs to be treated.

This type of infection can happen in people who use peritoneal dialysis (PD). PD uses a dialysis fluid and the lining of the belly to filter toxins from the blood. The fluid enters and leaves the belly through a soft tube, or catheter. The place where the catheter comes out of your body is the dialysis access. You may get peritonitis if the catheter is not kept clean. You can also get it if the area around the access is not clean.

Your doctor will give you antibiotics to treat the infection. If you use PD and the infection is minor, the antibiotics may be added to the dialysis fluid. The doctor may give you a new access while the old one heals. Or you may start using hemodialysis instead of PD. Hemodialysis uses a machine instead of the lining of the belly to filter waste from the blood.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take steps to help prevent infections from your PD catheter.
    • Keep your access site clean and dry. Check it every day for signs of infection.
    • Keep the end of your catheter covered when it is not in use.
    • Always wash your hands before you touch your catheter.
    • Avoid swimming and bathing unless your dialysis team has told you it is okay. Always clean and dry your catheter and access site right away after you get wet.
    • Follow your doctor's instructions for showering.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your belly is bloated or swollen. It may feel hard (rigid).
  • You have severe pain and tenderness in the belly that may get worse when you move, cough, or press on the belly. The pain sometimes goes up into the shoulder.
  • You have fever and chills.
  • You have a fast pulse.
  • You are breathing faster than usual.
  • You are confused or feel less alert.
  • You have new or worse nausea and vomiting.
  • You have diarrhea.
  • You have signs of infection at the access site, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Reddish streaks leading from the site.
    • Pus draining from the site.
    • A fever.
  • The dialysis fluid looks cloudy or changes colour.
  • Fluid is not flowing through the catheter.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.