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[L. peritonaeum, peritoneum, fr. Gr. peritonaion, stretched around]
The largest serous membrane of the body, made up of the following five different folds: the greater omentum, lesser omentum, falciform ligament, mesentery, and mesocolon. These folds line the abdominal cavity and are reflected over the viscera. They connect organs within the abdomen together and protect and support the organs.
Diseases that affect the peritoneum can be assessed with gentle and careful percussion and palpation of the abdomen. Localized or diffuse peritonitis may be evident when the abdomen is tapped with a percussing finger (the patient will wince, guard the abdomen, and complain that the percussion is very painful); it may also be evident when the abdominal wall is gently depressed and then released (release of the examining hand causes guarding and discomfort). Fluid within the peritoneum (ascites) may be suggested by shifting dullness on percussion of the abdominal wall, or by the detection of a fluid wave when one hand depresses and releases on one side of the abdomen, while the other hand gently holds the opposite side.
PERITONEUM Seen laparoscopically (mag. ×½)