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What Is the Peritoneal Cavity?

The peritoneal cavity is the potential space in the abdomen between the parietal and visceral cavities where some vital organs are contained. This cavity is enclosed by layers of peritoneum.

The peritoneal cavity has two parts- the greater sac and the lesser sac. The greater sac has two compartments- the supracolic compartment where the liver, gall bladder, and stomach are contained and the infracolic compartment where the intestines are. The lesser sac also known as omental bursa is behind the stomach.
The organs covered by the peritoneum have supporting mesentery while the organs which are only partially covered by the peritoneum without the supporting mesentery are called extraperitoneal organs and includes the pancreas, kidneys, uterus, duodenum, bladder and the colons.

Among males, the peritoneal cavity is closed while in women, the reproductive organs like the uterine tubes and oviducts open laterally to the peritoneal cavity making them more susceptible to infections.

The peritoneal cavity secretes about fifty milliliters of yellow peritoneal fluid a day composed of white blood cells, antibodies and biochemicals. This fluid acts as lubricant so the vital organs will not rub on each other and has anti-inflammatory properties. If this fluid increases or accumulates the excess fluid is called ascitic fluid. This condition known as ascites can lead to complications like liver disease. Among the signs of ascites are shortness of breath, increase in abdominal girth, and extreme fatigue. There is also peritoneal cancer or peritoneal mesothelioma, which is a rare kind of cancer that exhibits vague symptoms and is usually asymptomatic until it is very serious. The secret really is to pay attention to one’s health and to have regular check ups.

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