Causes Of Gastrointestinal Perforation: Symptoms & Treatment

Gastrointestinal perforation develops when an aperture forms through the stomach, small intestine or large intestine. The causes for this are diverse and your doctor will examine you as well as order a few tests and investigations to ascertain the precise cause.

Inflammation and infection occur when the following gain entry in to the abdominal cavity:

  • Bacteria
  • Stomach acid
  • Bile
  • Partially digested food
  • Stool

This is a medical emergency requiring instant medical aid.

Gastrointestinal perforation is a life threatening condition and the prognosis depends upon timely diagnosis and optimal treatment.

Signs And Symptoms Of Gastrointestinal Perforation

Signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal perforation include:

  • Severe pain in the abdomen. The pain often aggravates when one touches or palpates the area or when you move. The pain is usually better when lying still.
  • The abdomen is tender to touch.
  • Chills with fever are common.
  • Nausea and vomiting occurs.
  • The abdomen may stick outwards farther than normal and it feels hard.
  • You will pass less urine, stools, and gas
  • Weakness
  • Giddiness
  • Breathlessness
  • Rapid heart rate

What Causes Gastrointestinal Perforation?

The following are the etiological factors for gastrointestinal perforation:

  • Appendicitis, which is fairly common amongst older individuals.
  • Diverticulitis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gallstones
  • Infection of the gallbladder.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Blunt trauma to the abdomen.
  • Knife or gunshot wound to the abdomen.
  • An inflamed Meckel’s diverticulum, which is a congenital anomaly of the small intestine.
  • GI tract malignancy.
  • Surgery in the abdomen.
  • Stomach ulcers due to taking aspirin, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroids for a protracted period of time.
  • Ingesting foreign objects or acidic substances.
  • Smoking and alcohol abuse increase the risk of gastrointestinal perforation.
  • Infrequently, the condition may develop because of bowel injuries due to an endoscopy or colonoscopy.

Complications related to gastrointestinal perforation include:

  • Bleeding
  • Wound infection
  • Sepsis, a life threatening bacterial infection.
  • Abscesses in the abdomen.
  • Infarction of the bowel.
  • Permanent ileostomy or colostomy.

Treatment Of Gastrointestinal Perforation

Surgery is required to close the hole and manage the condition. The chief aim of the surgery is:

  • Treat the anatomical problem.
  • Manage the cause of peritonitis.
  • Get rid of any foreign material present in the abdominal cavity which may set off problems – feces, bile, and food.

In rare cases, your health care provider may abstain from surgical intervention and prescribe antibiotics if the hole has closed on its own.

Occasionally, your surgeon may advise excising a section of the intestine. Removal of a segment of the bowel may result in a colostomy or ileostomy, which permits intestinal contents to drain into a bag attached to the wall of the abdomen.

The GI tract will be sensitive after the surgery; hence, you need to have a liquid diet for the first few days. Opt for lots of water, fat free broth, soups, fruit juices, ice pops, coffee and tea.

Thereafter, have a soft food diet comprising of foods which are mashed and pureed, such as mashed potatoes, bananas, ground meat, tofu, cooked fruits and cooked cereal. Steer clear of whole grain, popcorn, raw vegetables, berries and dry meats. Regular foods may be reintroduced once your health care provider allows you to.