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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2011 Mar;196(3):W273-9. doi: 10.2214/AJR.10.4468.

Pneumatosis intestinalis and pneumoperitoneum after bilateral lung transplantation in adults.

Author information

  • 1Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA. william.thompson6@va.gov



The purpose of this article is to determine the clinical features, imaging findings, and possible causes of pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) or pneumoperitoneum that developed in bilateral lung transplant recipients.


From December 2004 to July 2009, seven (2%) of 321 bilateral lung transplant recipients (two women and five men; age range, 25-66 years) who developed PI or pneumoperitoneum, or both, were identified. Medical records were reviewed to determine the clinical presentation, laboratory findings, and medications at the time of presentation of PI or pneumoperitoneum. Hospital course and time to resolution of PI or pneumoperitoneum were recorded. Common factors that might explain the cause of the PI and pneumoperitoneum were evaluated. Two experienced abdominal radiologists reviewed all imaging studies and recorded the specific findings for each patient.


All patients had minimal or no symptoms, normal laboratory study results, and no systemic, intestinal, or proven respiratory infections. All patients but one were receiving triple immunosuppressive agents (i.e., prednisone, azathioprine, and tacrolimus). The imaging findings were similar in five of the patients with the PI dominated by a linear and cystic appearance and involving only the colon. Three of the six patients with PI had both PI and pneumoperitoneum. The mean time to resolution of PI was 24 days. No definite cause for the PI and pneumoperitoneum could be determined in the seven patients.


Bilateral lung transplant recipients may develop benign PI or pneumoperitoneum after surgery. Benign PI in bilateral lung transplant recipients has a similar and specific linear and cystic appearance and is not due to ischemic bowel. No specific cause for the PI and pneumoperitoneum could be determined.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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