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Peritoneal Cavity

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What is Peritoneal Cavity?

The peritoneal cavity is named after the potential space that is found between the visceral and the parietal layers in the peritoneum. The parietal layer is created surrounding the abdominal walls and the visceral layer surrounds all the internal organs. The peritoneal cavity is filled with a serous peritoneal fluid that is secreted by all the mesothelial cells lining the peritoneum. This fluid enables all the peritoneal layers to slide properly against each other with very little friction. Hence it leads to efficient movements of all the abdominopelvic organs. 

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With the folding of the peritoneum, while following the organ linings, small pouches or recesses are formed which are then filled with fluid. As a result, there might be some inflammation in the adjacent organs. Some of the main examples of such recesses include the lesser sac’s inferior recesses which are formed when the greater omentum is folded. Also, the recto-uterine pouch in females can be inflated due to that particular reason. 

What is Peritoneal Cavity Meaning? 

The space that is located between the visceral and the parietal peritoneum of the abdominal cavity can be defined as the peritoneal cavity. This cavity contains the peritoneal cavity fluid that is created with leukocytes, electrolytes, antibodies, and water. The main function of the peritoneal fluid is to act as a lubricating agent, enabling the free movement of the viscera in the abdominal layers. Also, the antibodies present in the fluid help in fighting several infections in the body. 

Although the peritoneal cavity has fluid in it, it can be termed as a potential space because the increase in the amount of fluid can lead to clinical conditions such as ascites. 

Peritoneal Cavity Anatomy 

There are two different sacs constituting the peritoneal cavity known as the lesser and greater peritoneal sacs. The greater peritoneal sac takes a major share of the peritoneal cavity. The lesser peritoneal sac which is also called the omental bursa is located in the posterior section of the stomach near the lesser omentum. Since the pelvic organs situated in the sexes are different, the structure of the peritoneal cavity varies from one sex to another. One of the main differences is in the location of the distal section of the peritoneal cavity.  

The Greater Sac

The greater sac which takes up the major share in the peritoneal cavity can be further classified into two different compartments. The mesentery that is present in the transverse colon is responsible for the division of the greater sac. One of the two parts of the greater peritoneal sac is termed the Supracolic compartment. It is situated on top of the transverse mesocolon. This section of the peritoneal space contains the liver, spleen, and stomach. The second part is known as the infracolic compartment and it is situated beneath the transverse mesocolon. The descending, ascending colon as well as the small intestines are included in this compartment. The mesentery which is present in the small intestine further groups the infracolic compartment into right and left infracolic sacs. The infracolic, as well as the supracolic divisions, tend to join the paracolic gutters which have their location in the middle of the posterolateral abdominal walls as well as the lateral section of the descending and ascending colon. 

Lesser Sac or Omental Bursa

This is one of the peritoneal cavity organs that is situated on the posterior section of the lesser omentum and the stomach. The main function of the lesser sac is to make sure that the stomach is able to move properly and freely against the structures that lie inferior and posterior to it. The epiploic foramen forms the connection between the greater sac and the lesser sac. It is located posterior to the lesser omentum’s free edge.


Function of Peritoneal Cavity 

The peritoneal cavity that is a part of the peritoneum performs a great variety of functions. The cavity is filled with a serous fluid which acts as a lubricating agent for all the internal organs. It ensures that these organs such as the intestines and the stomach are able to move freely without any obstruction in the system. Apart from that, the peritoneal cavity fluid consists of several antibodies that help in fighting different infections that might occur in the surrounding organs. Hence, it assists in keeping the organs safe from any harm. These functions performed by the peritoneal cavity make it one of the most important sections of the organ system. 


The peritoneal cavity is the space existing between the parietal and the visceral peritoneum layers that line the abdominal cavity. In normal situations, the cavity is considered to be just a potential one. This is due to the fact that the visceral and the parietal layers are mostly in contact and there is no space for the cavity to exist. 

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FAQs on Peritoneal Cavity

1. What is peritoneal cavity meaning?

The term peritoneal cavity is used to describe the potential space that exists between the visceral peritoneum and the parietal peritoneum that line the entire abdominal wall. The visceral peritoneum surrounds all of the important internal organs while the parietal peritoneal layer surrounds the abdominal walls. The peritoneal cavity consists of a fluid that is serous and is secreted by the different mesothelial cells lining the peritoneum. While the peritoneal cavity is considered to be an empty space, the term potential is used to describe it because in normal situations, both the visceral and the parietal layers of the peritoneum are mostly in contact and hence there is no space for the peritoneal cavity to exist.

2. What are some of the functions of the peritoneal cavity?

While the peritoneum that lines the abdominal walls help in protecting the structure, the peritoneal cavity has a lot of other important functions. The fluid that is present in the cavity ensures the free movement of all the internal organs that lie in the area. Apart from that, the peritoneal cavity fluid consists of different electrolytes and antibodies. The main function of these antibodies is to ensure that no infections or diseases are affecting the internal organs. So, it can be said that the peritoneal cavity ensures the protection and movement of the internal organs and hence is considered to be an integral part of the organ systems.  

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