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Am Surg. 2012 Oct;78(10):1105-8.

Pneumatosis in post-Whipple patients.

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Department of Surgery, Maricopa Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.


Pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) is the finding of air in the wall of the intestine. Clinical significance ranges from an incidental radiologic finding to an indicator of life-threatening disease requiring surgical intervention. We report the incidence and consequence of PI in a 7-year, single-surgeon, retrospective review. Data from demographics, imaging, and outcomes were analyzed. Two-tailed Fisher's exact test was performed to analyze the difference between groups. A total of 214 patients underwent a Whipple procedure with a routinely placed feeding tube during this period. Most had a gastrojejunal feeding tube, 80.4 per cent. Thirteen patients developed PI. Overall reoperation rate was nine of 201 versus four of 13 in the PI group (P<0.02). Three patients taken back to the operating room with peritonitis and PI had a necrotic bowel. A fourth patient was taken to surgery for unrelenting upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The remaining nine were managed nonoperatively with resolution of PI. The 90-day death rate in those without PI was 2.9 per cent versus 23.3 per cent with PI (P<0.02). Isolated PI can be managed nonoperatively; however, in the presence of peritonitis, it is a strong predictor of lethal complications.

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