Gastrointestinal perforation

Alternative Names

Intestinal perforation; Perforation of the intestines

Definition of Gastrointestinal perforation

Gastrointestinal perforation is a hole that develops through the entire wall of the stomach, small intestine, large bowel, or gallbladder. This condition is a medical emergency.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Gastrointestinal perforation can be caused by a variety of illnesses, including appendicitis, diverticulitis, ulcer disease, gallstones or gallbladder infection, and less commonly, inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms

Perforation of the intestine leads to leakage of intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity. This causes inflammation called peritonitis.

Signs and tests

X-rays of the chest or abdomen may show air in the abdominal cavity (not in the stomach or intestines), suggesting a perforation. CT scan of the abdomen often shows the location of the perforation. The white blood cell (WBC) count is often higher than normal.

Treatment

Treatment usually involves surgery to repair the hole (perforation). Occasionally, a small part of the intestine must be removed. A temporary or may be needed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Surgery is usually successful, but depends on the severity of the perforation and the length of time to treatment.

Review

Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 6/28/2010

Digestive system
Digestive system organs

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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