Links checked 15/01/18.
This is the first reported case of sterile peritonitis, a type of peritonitis not caused by infection, as a symptom of Sweet’s syndrome (SS) (Rajjoub et al, 2017). Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen.
A 37-year-old female patient who had previously been diagnosed with SS in 1998 had been having repeat episodes of peritonitis. On admission to hospital, she had a 48-hour history of right sided abdominal pain and feeling sick, high temperature, fast pulse rate, low blood pressure, and a raised white blood cell count, including neutrophil count. There was no vomiting, problems with bowel movements, urinary symptoms, or vaginal discharge, and the patient reported that she had never been sexually active. One month prior to admission, her SS had also flared up, which was treated with steroid medication.
It was in 2000 that the patient had first started experiencing abdominal pain, alongside left groin pain and a high temperature. She was treated with antibiotics, and then had a laparoscopy, otherwise known as abdominal ‘keyhole’ surgery. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen, while avoiding large incisions. The laparoscopy showed a large amount of pus in the pelvis and abdomen associated with pelvic adhesions. These are fibrous bands between tissues and organs that occur as a result of inflammation or injury. Due to the complexity of the situation, the laparoscopy was changed to ‘open’ or traditional surgery so that the patient’s abdomen could be more thoroughly examined. Her appendix, although it appeared to be normal, was removed. A sample of the pus was sent for analysis, but showed no bacterial growth, i.e. no signs of infection. It was thought that the absence of infection was due to the patient being given antibiotics before surgery.
On a later admission, the patient had another laparoscopy for ongoing lower abdominal pain. Once again, there was a large amount of pus in the pelvis and abdomen, and a subphrenic abscess. This is a collection of pus between the diaphragm, liver, and spleen. There were also extensive adhesions, and as a result of this finding, the patient was started on antibiotics and initially diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) of unknown cause. PID is an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries, and mostly affects sexually active women aged 15 to 24.
As the patient had reported never being sexually active and having a SS flare-up before admission, it was decided that the PID diagnosis was incorrect, and her peritonitis and pus in the pelvis and abdomen were probably SS-associated. Rajjoub et al have hypothesized that this is because neutrophils have the potential to accumulate in the peritoneal cavity causing a widespread reaction and development of pus and adhesions. It was also hypothesized that steroids may have initially worsened the existing problem, but not caused it, by increasing the movement of white blood cells into the peritoneum.
The patient was eventually discharged from hospital with a pelvic drain in place to drain away any further fluid or pus, and antibiotics to prevent infection.
NHS Choices (2015) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (online). Reviewed 3/09/15. Accessed 15/01/18.
NHS Choices (2015) Peritonitis (online). Reviewed 18/02/15. Accessed 15/01/18.
Rajjoub, Y., Saffaf, N. and Goodman, A. (2017) A rare case report describing the relation between sweet syndrome and spontaneous recurrent peritonitis. International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, Jul 21;39:93-97 (PMC).
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