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Perforated Bowel

Perforated bowel is a condition in which the intestinal wall ruptures, thus permitting its contents to enter the rest of the abdominal cavity. When this happens, sepsis or blood infection sets in and death may result if the condition is not treated promptly. A traumatic injury, Crohn’s disease, appendicitis, gastrointestinal cancer, or Diverticulitis can also cause this condition.

What Symptoms Would You Have with A Perforated Bowel?

There are several symptoms of bowel perforation, many of which can also be associated with less serious diseases or conditions. The most common signs include:

  • High fever and nausea
  • Severe abdominal pain that worsens with movement
  • Intense vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek prompt medical attention. The continual vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and that requires attention as well. Therefore, even if it’s not caused by perforated bowel, this symptom needs to be treated quickly to prevent further health complications.

How Could Your Bowel Become Perforated?

Crohn’s Disease

When it comes to patients with Crohn’s Disease or Diverticulitis, doctors monitor them closely because these patients are at a high risk of developing a perforated bowel. With Crohn’s disease, for example, inflammation is present throughout the intestines and can result in an intestinal blockage. Standard treatment centers on managing the pain and inflammation to make the symptoms tolerable for the patient. Treatment goals include controlling pain and swelling so the patient experiences less pain. This disease is not curable and requires lifelong management.

We already know bowel perforation can occur because of an intestinal blockage, Diverticulitis, or trauma to the abdominal region; but further consideration of each of these conditions may shed additional light on their differences.

Intestinal Blockage

An intestinal blockage occurs when the bowel is unable to expel waste from the body naturally. For a Crohn’s disease patient, regular evaluations are necessary to ensure they do not have a blockage.


Diverticulitis is characterized by small pouches in the colon which can become infected. The most common symptom of Diverticulitis is continually worsening abdominal pain. In most cases, antibiotics will clear the infection; but surgery may be necessary to remove the infected pouches. If an infection of the diverticula remains untreated, the resulting blockage of the colon can lead to a perforated bowel.

Abdominal Trauma

Any trauma occurring within the abdominal region, whether it’s from a compression injury or puncture wound, may also perforate the bowels. While the patient is undergoing treatment for the primary injury, an X-ray and CT scan can check for a perforated bowel so any appropriate measures can be taken.

Treating Bowel Perforation

In the majority of cases, repairing a perforated bowel requires surgery. However, it’s necessary to clean out the abdomen first. In rare cases, the doctor may have to perform a colostomy because of the extent of infection among other parts of the intestinal system. The colostomy is usually temporary and is accompanied by strong doses of antibiotics so any remaining infection in the body is removed.

Preventing Bowel Perforation

Depending on the reason for the original perforation, future incidents may or may not be preventable. To reduce the chances of any future bowel perforations, it’s important to determine the cause and avoid it. For example, if the patient routinely develops peptic ulcers, certain medications may stem their future occurrence. Regarding Diverticulitis, a high fiber diet is necessary to prevent conditions leading to constipation. The focus is upon making certain potential causes of bowel perforation are removed, thus permitting regular bowel movements that are soft and easily eliminated.

Following a high fiber diet can help prevent constipation as well. This does not mean most cases of perforated bowel result from constipation; but, if you can eliminate the source of the problem, you lessen your chances of having recurring bowel perforations.

Besides adding more fiber to your diet, you should also drink plenty of water as this promotes regularity by helping bowel movements move along more efficiently. By improving your eating habits, drinking more water, and exercising more often, you decrease the chances of developing constipation and thus bowel perforation as an added benefit. For people with Crohn’s Disease or ulcers, it’s also advisable to visit your doctor often for maintenance checkups, to follow your medication protocols stringently, and to develop a sensible treatment regimen incorporating the health tips mentioned above.

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