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CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office on Tuesday ruled that Andre Jackson, the 17-year-old Euclid High School football player, died of a condition called peritonitis after he was hit in the abdomen.

Peritonitis, which is different than internal bleeding, requires immediate hospitalization and treatment, said Dr. Ronnie Fass, director of gastroenterology & hepatology at MetroHealth and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Here are some facts about peritonitis:

What is it?

Peritonitis is the inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity. That silk-like lining is called the peritoneum.

The inflammation most commonly occurs when a gastrointestinal organ, like the colon, bowel or intestines, leaks fluid into the abdominal cavity, Fass said.

What causes it?

There are several potential causes of peritonitis. It can result as a complication from another medical issue, like pancreatitis, kidney disease or dialysis, Fass said.

It can also occur from a traumatic injury, like a car accident or a hard blow to the abdomen, Fass said.

In Jackson's case, the teen was hit in the abdomen, and the force caused a laceration in his small intestine, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner said.

What are the symptoms?

Peritonitis usually causes severe pain in a person's abdomen, Fass said.

"The pain is so severe that even movement you make is agonizing, " he said.

The abdomen becomes tender and tight, and can feel bloated.

Patients usually suffer symptoms from the infection, too, like a fever, nausea or vomiting, Fass said.

How do you treat it?

Peritonitis requires immediate hospitalization, Fass said.

"You have to address it in a timely fashion, " he said. "If it's not addressed in a timely fashion, it could be deadly."

Once there, doctors immediately give the patient antibiotics to attack the bacteria that caused the infection, and run tests to find the source of the leak. Through surgery, doctors either stitch the organ shut or remove part of the organ, and wash the abdominal cavity to clear any fluid that might linger in the cavity, he said.

Peritonitis carries a high complication risk, Fass said, because doctors have to deal with foreign, bacteria-laden content in the abdominal cavity.



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