Idiopathic Pneumatosis Intestinalis Requiring Decompressive Laparotomy

May 2016
Connecticut Medicine;May2016, Vol. 80 Issue 5, p301
Academic Journal
Case Study
Introduction: Pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) and hepatic portal venous gas (HPVG) are radiographic signs of questionable bowel ischemia. Pneumatosis intestinalis can be associated with possible benign conditions such as obstructive airway disease. We present a patient who demonstrated clinical signs of overt sepsis with corresponding radiological findings of PI and HPVG concering for possible small or large bowel ischemia. However at exploration, no sign of small or large bowel injury or ischemia could be detected. Case Presentation: A 36-year-old male with a history of alcohol abuse presented to Danbury Hospital as a trauma alert after he slid on his motorcycle. He had a complete transection of the thoracic spinal cord which required multilevel laminectomies and a spinal fusion. He developed overt signs of sepsis with vital signs ofa temperature of 38.5°C (101.4°F), heart rate of 141 bpm, white blood cell (WBC) count of 24.7 c/mcL, and lactic acid of 2.4 mg/dL. A CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis revealed a pneumatosis and hepatic portal venous gas. An exploratory laparotomy was performed which showed distended small bowel, but no evidence for ischemia or injury. An ABthera™ Open Abdomen Negative Pressure Therapy System (Kinetic Concepts, Inc., San Antonio, TX) was placed due to the fact that the abdominal wall could not be closed. A second look laparotomy revealed no injury or ischemia, and the patient's abdomen was closed primarily. Conclusion: Pneumatosis intestinalis and hepatic portal venous gas are radiographic findings that can be associated with bowel ischemia. The clinical status of the patient should guide operative management. There is no evidence to suggest that there is an association with spinal trauma and pneumatosis intestinalis or hepatic portal venous gas.


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