Peritoneum

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The peritoneum is the serous membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity or the coelom — it covers most of the intra-abdominal (or coelomic) organs — in higher vertebrates and some invertebrates (annelids, for instance). It is composed of a layer of mesothelium supported by a thin layer of connective tissue. The peritoneum both supports the abdominal organs and serves as a conduit for their blood and lymph vessels and nerves.

Contents

Structure

Layers

The abdominal cavity (the space bounded by the vertebrae, abdominal muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor) should not be confused with the intraperitoneal space (located within the abdominal cavity, but wrapped in peritoneum). For example, a kidney is inside the abdominal cavity, but is retroperitoneal.

Although they ultimately form one continuous sheet, two types or layers of peritoneum and a potential space between them are referenced:

  • The outer layer, called the parietal peritoneum, is attached to the abdominal wall.
  • The inner layer, the visceral peritoneum, is wrapped around the internal organs that are located inside the intraperitoneal cavity.
  • The potential space between these two layers is the peritoneal cavity; it is filled with a small amount (about 50 ml) of slippery serous fluid that allows the two layers to slide freely over each other.
  • The term mesentery is often used to refer to a double layer of visceral peritoneum. There are often blood vessels, nerves, and other structures between these layers. The space between these two layers is technically outside of the peritoneal sac, and thus not in the peritoneal cavity.

Subdivisions

There are two main regions of the peritoneum, connected by the epiploic foramen (also known as the Omental Foramen or Foramen of Winslow):

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