Inflammation that affects your retroperitoneal space is a serious medical condition. It has a high mortality rate. However, early diagnosis and treatment can improve your outlook.

The retroperitoneal space is the space between your peritoneum and your posterior abdominal wall. In less complicated terms, it’s the space in your abdomen between your abdominal cavity (the area where your intestines are) and your back. It houses several major organs, including:

  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • abdominal aorta
  • adrenal glands

Inflammation often happens in response to an infection. The infection can spread all over your body and affect vital organs if left untreated. The inflammation can also put pressure on your vital organs. This pressure could cause irreversible complications.

Retroperitoneal inflammation is also known as retroperitonitis.

Retroperitoneal inflammation has similar symptoms as other abdominal infections that involve inflammation. Symptoms include:

Retroperitoneal inflammation can happen when harmful bacteria come in contact with the organs in the retroperitoneal space or the lining that encloses your abdominal cavity. Possible causes of retroperitoneal inflammation include:

Complications with organs

  • Kidney infections, abscesses, stones, and other causes of inflammation or infection of the kidneys can cause retroperitoneal inflammation.
  • A ruptured appendix, stomach ulcers, or a perforated colon can allow bacteria into your retroperitoneal space.


Diverticulitis occurs when small bulging pouches (diverticula) in your digestive tract become inflamed or infected. A complication of diverticulitis is perforation, which means the pouches burst and spill digestive waste into your abdomen.

Medical procedures

Complications that cause inflammation can occur from a variety of medical procedures, including:

  • gastrointestinal surgery
  • feeding tubes
  • contaminated equipment
  • procedures that use catheters to draw fluid from your abdomen or intestinal organs


Infections can affect the membrane that lines your abdominal wall and covers your organs. These infections can cause inflammation of the membrane.


Although rare, the retroperitoneal space can become inflamed from chronic inflammation of the pancreas.


Injury or trauma can allow outside bacteria from other parts of your body to enter the retroperitoneal space.

Other causes

Chronic digestive conditions, such as stomach ulcers and diverticulitis, can create problems. This is especially true if they are left untreated.

Risky behavior, such as playing contact sports, can raise your chance of traumatic injuries. Some of these injuries can damage the retroperitoneal space.

Surgical procedures performed with unclean equipment or poor hygiene can increase your risk of infection and retroperitoneal inflammation.

Diagnosis begins with a physical exam. Your doctor will assess your symptoms. Then they will typically order an ultrasound, abdominal X-ray, CT scan, or MRI. These imaging tests will help reveal any abnormalities in the retroperitoneal space.

This will allow your doctor to assess your condition. This will also help your doctor see if any organs are affected by the inflammation and rule out other conditions.

Blood tests can help identify signs of inflammation in your blood. They can also identify signs of anemia (low red blood cell count). These can be signs of other conditions, such as retroperitoneal fibrosis.

Additionally, blood cultures can detect whether a bacterial infection has spread into your bloodstream.

Your doctor may order a biopsy (the surgical removal of a small amount of peritoneal tissue). This can help your doctor rule out other causes of inflammation.

Treatment for retroperitoneal inflammation is extremely important to prevent complications. You will need to stay in a hospital to get treatment.

This condition is largely treated with antibiotics or surgery.


Antibiotics can help prevent inflammation caused by infection. The type of antibiotic prescribed and the length of your treatment will depend on the severity of the infection and the suspected bacteria.


Your doctor may need to remove very inflamed, scarred, and infected tissue to prevent further problems. The infection could spread to other organs, for example. You may need surgery if it has spread.

You may also need treatment to remove blockages from the ducts or blood vessels of your organs, such as the ureters that connect your kidneys and bladder. This may help to prevent fatal complications.

Your doctor may give you immunosuppressant therapy if they determine that your immune system’s response is making your condition worse.

Your long-term outlook will depend on the amount of damage to your retroperitoneal tissues and how quickly you receive treatment.

Your hospital stay may be lengthy. Retroperitoneal inflammation is a serious condition that can have life-threatening consequences.

Serious complications can arise when inflammation affects the organs in your abdomen, such as your abdominal aorta. This is the large blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood to the lower half of your body.

To lower your risk of serious complications, speak to your doctor if you notice symptoms and get treatment early.