Get Your Questions About Complicated Intra-Abdominal Infections Answered!

Almost everyone suffered a small injury as a child. One of their parents would warn them to stop touching it or risking it get infected. Infections are common.

Organisms like bacteria and viruses are happy to make the interior of the body their home. There are many well known and well discussed infections like chickenpox, urinary tract infections, tetanus and the flu. People have less questions about these infections as they are well explored and experienced. 

A more serious and unknown situation can occur when someone suffers from complicated intra abdominal infections (IAI). These are a series of infections that occur around the gastrointestinal tract and the organs in the abdomen. When confined to their initial location, infections are considered to be uncomplicated. Complicated versions spread to other specific areas in the abdomen. 

The 6 Important Questions

1: Which infections make up intra-abdominal infections? 

A: There are several which can be included. Pancreatitis is one which is fairly well known and affects the pancreas. Diverticulitis is an infection which causes the intestine to form inflamed pouches. Cholecystitis is an infection that causes inflammation in the gallbladder. Cholangitis inflames a person’s bile duct system between the liver and gallbladder. Arguably the most troublesome in terms of complicated intra-abdominal infections is peritonitis. As has probably been noted, the key factor of intra-abdominal infections is inflammation. 

2: What exactly is peritonitis?

A: Peritonitis is another condition which causes inflammation. In this case, the inflammation occurs in the peritoneum. This is the membrane that covers the various organs in the abdomen, as well as the inner abdominal wall. If peritonitis is not treated quickly, the infection can spread throughout the body and become very life threatening. 

3: What makes an intra-abdominal infection complicated? 

A: In most cases, complicated intra-abdominal infections have managed to spread further in the abdomen. Typically to the peritoneum. This membrane is important as it covers organs and the abdominal wall. Complicated IAI will either have caused peritonitis and inflammation of the peritoneum or it has caused an abscess in the area. It’s important to note that untreated complicated intra-abdominal infections can spread rapidly and dangerously. 

4: How does someone get one of the infections that cause complicated intra-abdominal infections? 

A: One of the most common ways to get these specific infections is to actually get them around the time that they receive medical treatment for another condition. There are a wide variety of surgeries and procedures that can leave an infection. Infections caused this way can often cause sepsis. Community infections are ones in which there isn’t an immediate healthcare cause. People with community infections are classified as those who have not had contact with medical professionals for at least 2 days (48 hours specifically) before being admitted. 

5: What’s the primary treatment? 

A: In cases of complicated intra-abdominal infections, surgery is usually the primary treatment. The specific surgery is going to depend on the locations of the infections! There’s no use performing surgery on the gallbladder when the infection may have started in the pancreas. The goal of surgery is to remove as much infected or necrotic tissue as possible while having minimal impact on the body and its functions. Surgery can also be very important to help prevent a recurrence of an intra-abdominal infection. 

6: Is medication used? 

A: In a quick answer, yes, medication is necessary and key. It’s used in conjunction with surgery to help treat complicated intra-abdominal infections. The goal for medication is usually to slow the spread of the infection so that it can’t reach other areas. IAI is one of the most common causes of sepsis (total body infection). Without attempts to stem the infection, it can be fatal in many cases. 

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