Abdominal anatomy: difference between parietal and visceral peritoneum

The peritoneum is a mesothelial serous membrane, thin and almost transparent, which is found in the abdomen and constitutes the lining of the abdominal cavity and part of the pelvic one (parietal peritoneum), it also covers a large part of the viscera contained inside it (peritoneum visceral), while attaching them to the walls of the cavity (ligaments of the viscera)

The peritoneum, like other serous membranes, consists of a thin continuous lamina

Depending on its location in the abdominal cavity, it is divided into:

  • Parietal peritoneum, the outermost layer, lining the inner surface of the walls of the abdominopelvic cavity;
  • Visceral peritoneum, the innermost layer, which covers most of the viscera contained within the abdominal cavity.

Between these two layers there is a space, called peritoneal cavity (or cavity), which is completely closed and is therefore a virtual cavity filled only by a small quantity (about 50 ml) of a serous liquid which acts as a lubricant allowing the two layers to slide together without excessive friction.

The visceral peritoneum, with its numerous folds around the abdominal organs, causes the peritoneal cavity to shrink to a remarkably small, almost virtual space.

Some organs of the abdomen are completely surrounded by the peritoneum and are provided with a double sheet, which takes the name of meso (e.g. mesentery for the small intestine, mesocolon for the colon, mesometrium for the uterus and so on), which joins them to the parietal peritoneum of the abdominal wall.

In some cases, as in the mesentery, a layer made up of two welded sheets of visceral peritoneum tends to merge with another sheet giving rise to a fold which is inserted into the posterior wall of the abdomen along an oblique line which goes from the duodeno-jejunal flexure to the right iliac fossa.

In other organs, such as the duodenum and the ascending and descending colon, the peritoneum forms an incomplete lining leaving some exposed areas in contact with the posterior abdominal wall.

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