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Gastrointestinal Perforation

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Gastrointestinal perforation pertains to the formation of a hole that develops through the whole wall of the organs along the gastrointestinal tract.

Stomach Pain
Gastrointestinal Perforation

                Gastrointestinal perforation is a medical emergency that pertains to the formation of a hole that develops through the whole wall of the organs along the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the oesophagus, stomach, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, or rectum. It can be caused by a variety of diseases, which will be enumerated later. Gastrointestinal perforation is also called intestinal perforation or perforation of the intestines.

When a perforation (a tearing) occurs in any of the organs, its contents may spill over the abdominal cavity. The most serious complication that may occur from this is peritonitis, which will be discussed later. Gastrointestinal perforation should be treated immediately to avoid developing life-threatening complications. It can usually be detected by x-rays of the chest or abdomen or CT scan of abdomen. Moreover, chances of full recovery increase with early diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Perforation

                Gastrointestinal perforation can be caused by a variety of illnesses and conditions in the body. Some of the most common causes of gastrointestinal perforation include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gallstones or gallbladder infection
  • Ulcer
  • Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Inflamed Meckel’s diverticulum
  • Cancer
  • Blunt trauma to the stomach from car or bicycle accidents
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Knife wound to the stomach
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin and steroids
  • Bowel injuries from an endoscopy or colonoscopy  (rare)

Signs and Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Perforation

Signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal perforation are similar to those of many conditions in the body, which may include:

  • Intense stomach pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Complications from Gastrointestinal Perforation

If left untreated, it is not uncommon to develop complications from gastrointestinal perforation. Some of these complications can be severely life-threatening. Several complications may include:

  • Peritonitis: inflammation of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity
  • Sepsis: life-threatening complication that leads to body-wide inflammation caused by severe-infection
  • Internal bleeding
  • Abscesses in the abdomen or throughout the whole body
  • Wound infection

Treatment for Gastrointestinal Perforation

Immediate treatment is required for gastrointestinal perforation to avoid complications. The main goals of treatment are to fix anatomical problems, remove any foreign material in the abdominal cavity and avoid complications for ensuing. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery, specifically the removal of a part of the small intestine (ileostomy) or large intestine (colostomy)
  • In the rate cases where perforations closed on its own, antibiotics are prescribed

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal first aid training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing.


Gastrointestinal Perforation. (2012, July 25).  National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000235.htm

Phillips, Natalie. (2012, July 16). Gastrointestinal Perforation. Healthline. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from http://www.healthline.com/health/gastrointestinal-perforation?toptoctest=expand

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