Air In Abdomen

The air in the abdomen is also known as pneumoperitoneum. It is usually a very serious symptom that is often related to perforation of some part of digestive tract.


Peptic ulcer

Air is released into abdominal cavity during rupture of a stomach or duodenal ulcer causing GI tract perforation. Acute abdominal pain located in epigastrium and abdominal stiffness is also present.

Bowel rupture

This situation can have several causes. Probably the most common is rupture caused by a doctor during colonoscopy. Bowel perforation can also be a complication of many bowel diseases including diverticulosis and diverticulitis, appendicitis, advanced forms of colon cancer, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Abdominal trauma

Open abdominal wounds with communication between abdominal cavity and surroundings are associated with air penetration into the abdomen.

Post-surgical conditions

After abdominal surgery (no matter if open or laparoscopic surgery) certain amount of air stays in the abdominal cavity. Due to strict aseptic conditions during operations, this air is absorbed without doing any harm.

Diagnostic approach

The pneumoperitoneum can be easily diagnosed by abdominal X-ray. If we need more precise examination, computed tomography is usually the best option. When pneumoperitoneum is related to an acute medical condition, surgical intervention is often performed as both diagnostic and therapeutic option. The surgeon can find location of perforation and fix it immediately.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources