Radiation enteritis

Perforated digestive tract

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A perforated digestive tract occurs if any of the hollow digestive organs are punctured. This results to the release of the digestive contents and triggers shock and death if surgical intervention is not carried out right away.

The perforation will allow the digestive juices, food or intestinal contents to leak into the abdomen. These are highly irritating and even contain bacteria which causes significant inflammation and infection that can be life-threatening if not treated.

What are the possible causes?

The causes of a perforated digestive tract tend to vary depending on the site of the perforation, but injury can affect any part of the digestive system. Foreign bodies that are ingested go through the body without any difficulty but can end up stuck and result to perforation. In addition, foreign bodies that were inserted via the anus can perforate the rectum or colon.

Perforated digestive tract
Remember that perforation of the esophagus, stomach or the duodenum can cause abrupt, intense pain that can radiate to the shoulder.

Indications of a perforated digestive tract

Remember that perforation of the esophagus, stomach or the duodenum can cause abrupt, intense pain that can radiate to the shoulder. The individual appears very sick with sweating, rapid pulse rate and tender abdomen that is firm to the touch.

Since perforation of the small or large intestine occurs during the course of another condition and leakage of the contents might be contained to a small region in the abdominal cavity without spreading, the symptoms might be less dramatic and even mistaken as worsening of the initial issue.

How is it diagnosed

In all forms of perforation in the digestive tract, the individual usually experiences symptoms such as appetite loss, nausea and vomiting.

The doctor will take an X-ray of the abdomen and the chest which might indicate that air has leaked from the digestive system. Take note that this is a clear indication of a perforated digestive tract. Oftentimes, the doctor will require a CT scan of the abdomen to confirm a diagnosis.


If the doctor provides a diagnosis of a perforation, immediate surgery is required. The doctor will decide on the specific procedure based on the location and the exact cause for the perforation. The immediate objective is to stop the intestinal contents from spilling out into the abdominal cavity. Prior to surgery, the individual is given fluids and intravenous antibiotics.

In some cases, a small-sized tube is inserted via the nose and into the stomach to suction out the stomach contents so that it will not flow out of the perforation as well as to relieve the pressure in the bowel.

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