Vernix caseosa peritonitis (VCP) is a rare peripartum complication secondary to the introduction of fetal vernix into the maternal peritoneal cavity. Vernix caseosa peritonitis typically manifests a few hours to days after a cesarian section and is often initially misdiagnosed as a more common disease process resulting in delayed diagnosis. We report the computed tomography (CT) findings in 2 patients with VCP and reviewed the previously reported CT findings of VCP.
Two patients, aged 17 and 24 years, presented with signs and symptoms of peritonitis within days of undergoing a cesarian section. In both cases, CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis demonstrated ascites and multiple small, well-defined, peripherally enhancing, cystic peritoneal nodules which were most prominent around the liver and became larger and more numerous over time. Antibiotic therapy was not effective, subsequent laparoscopic peritoneal biopsy demonstrated VCP, and patients were successfully treated with lavage and the addition of intravenous steroids.
Vernix caseosa peritonitis is an underrecognized disorder that is most often mistaken for other more common causes of peritonitis. In the setting of peripartum peritonitis, the CT findings of ascites with multiple small, well-defined, peripherally enhancing, cystic peritoneal nodules, especially adjacent to the liver, which grow in size and number strongly suggests VCP.