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J Radiol. 2008 Dec;89(12):1907-20.

[Linear or bubbly: a pictorial review of CT features of intestinal pneumatosis in adults].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Service de Radiologie Viscérale, Hôpital Lariboisière, APHP, GHU Nord & Université Diderot- Paris 7, 2, rue Ambroise Paré, 75010 Paris, France.


Pneumatosis intestinalis is a rare condition, which is defined by the presence of gas within the bowel wall. In adult patients, pneumatosis intestinalis can be depicted in various circumstances. Owing to the routine use of CT to investigate patients with abdominal pain, pneumatosis intestinalis can be seen as an incidental finding or can be observed in association with a life-threatening disease such as bowel infarction. On CT images, pneumatosis intestinalis can display two different appearances; one that has a cystic or bubbly appearance can be considered as a chronic pneumatosis and is suggestive for a benign cause while the other, which has a linear appearance can be considered as a symptom and is more frequently secondary to a life-threatening cause. However, none of these two CT characteristics can be considered pathognomonic for any of these two categories of causes. In such situations, the analysis of the location, extent and, if any, associated findings may help to differentiate between benign and life-threatening causes. In these patients who present with abdominal signs that mimic symptoms that would warrant surgical exploration, the analysis of associated findings is critical to rule out a life-threatening cause of pneumatosis intestinalis and to obviate the need for unnecessary laparotomy. In adult patients with a known specific disease such as celiac disease, chronic pseudointestinal obstruction or other chronic diseases, even with accompanying pneumoperitoneum, pneumatosis intestinalis does not uniformly mandate surgical exploration. This pictorial review presents the more and the less common pneumatosis intestinalis CT features in adult patients, with the aim of making the reader more familiar with this potentially misleading sign.

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