Perforation of the stomach is a full-thickness injury of the wall of the organ. Since peritoneum completely covers the stomach, perforation of the wall creates a communication between the gastric lumen and the peritoneal cavity. If the perforation occurs acutely, there is no time for an inflammatory reaction to wall off the perforation, and the gastric content is free to enter the general peritoneal cavity, causing chemical peritonitis. Perforations occurring over a prolonged period may be contained locally by the inflammatory reaction. Perforation may be suspected based upon the patient’s clinical presentation, or the diagnosis become obvious through a report of extraluminal ”free air” on diagnostic imaging performed to evaluate for abdominal pain or another symptom. Treatment is a surgical repair. During surgery, most of the perforations are linear and found high in the stomach and along the greater curvature. The perforation is usually closed with a patch made of omentum. ,,
Etiology is unknown in many young people, but possibilities include sudden gastric distension with a degree of ischemia attributable to perinatal hypoxia, more distal bowel obstruction, and congenital focal absence of the muscle of the gastric wall.
Gastric injury can be the consequence of trauma, interventional procedures, and intrinsic gastric pathology or can occur spontaneously in the newborn.
Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD)
PUD is the most common cause of stomach perforation. Owing to the advancement of medical management; the incidence of gastric perforation occurs in less than 10% of patients with peptic ulcer disease. It occurs most commonly in elderly patients taking NSAIDs and in patients consuming excess alcohol. Perforation of gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer into the peritoneal cavity causes initially chemical peritonitis as opposed to bacterial peritonitis, unlike more distal bowel perforation. If posterior wall gastric ulcers perforate, they leak gastric contents into the lesser sac, which tends to confine the peritonitis. These patients may present with less marked symptoms.
Spontaneous Gastric Perforation
Spontaneous perforation of the stomach is an uncommon event mainly seen in the neonatal period, the first few days of life, as a cause of pneumoperitoneum. Beyond the neonatal period, perforation is rare and usually secondary to trauma, surgery, caustic ingestion, or peptic ulcer.
Traumatic perforation is more frequently the result of a penetrating injury or instrumentation of the stomach, although perforation and organ rupture can occur with severe blunt abdominal trauma. Injuries of the stomach can occur in association with any penetrating trauma of the abdomen, such as gunshot and stab wounds. About 8% of abdominal wounds involve the stomach, and in approximately five percent the stomach is the only organ injured. The type of gastric wound produced by a bullet or sharp instrument is a function of the size, shape, course and velocity of the missile. With penetrating wounds, both the anterior and posterior walls of the stomach may be injured, and the posterior wall of the organ should always be visualized at surgery. With blunt trauma to the upper abdominal region, the stomach may become lacerated, or it may even rupture if the organ is filled and distended at the moment of impact. The stomach is relatively protected by its anatomical location and is the third most frequently injured hollow intra-abdominal organ after small bowel and colon and then stomach. 
Malignancy-Related Gastric Perforation
Neoplasms can perforate by direct penetration and necrosis, or by producing obstruction. Perforations related to tumor can also occur spontaneously, following chemotherapy or as a result of radiation treatments. It can be related also to interventions like stent placement for malignant gastric outlet obstruction.
The stomach may be injured in the course of a number of procedures. Upper endoscopy is the main cause of iatrogenic perforations. The incidence of perforation related to endoscopy increases with procedural complexity, and perforation is less common with diagnostic than with therapeutic procedures. The proximal stomach is at greatest risk as this is where its wall is the thinnest. The overall perforation rate is 0.11% for rigid endoscopy compared to 0.03% for flexible endoscopy. Iatrogenic perforations are more frequent in patients with pre-existing gastric pathology. Rupture of the stomach due to excessive insufflation of the stomach can occur in the course of endoscopy or even unrelated procedures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and is typically located on the lesser curve, where the organ is least distensible.
Causes of Endoscopy-Related Gastric Perforation
In children, the majority of gastric perforations are trauma related. Data reveal that such perforations are on the rise from both blunt and penetrating trauma. In adults, the most common cause in the past was peptic ulcer disease. However, since the introduction of the proton pump inhibitors, these perforations have become very rare today. Overall, duodenal perforations are more common than gastric perforations. At least 30% of gastric perforations are associated with a malignancy.
A very common cause of gastric perforation in hospitals today is endoscopy related. The exact numbers are not known because the diagnosis of perforation is usually altered and stated as peptic ulcer disease.
The stomach usually has no microorganism because of the high acidity. Hence the majority of individuals who experience a gastric perforation are not at risk for immediate bacterial growth. However, the leakage of acidic juices in the abdominal cavity can lead to severe chemical peritonitis. Within a few hours of the perforation, the patient will develop an acute abdomen and signs of peritonitis. When food leaks inside the abdominal cavity, it can lead to an inflammatory reaction and numerous pockets of an abscess. If left untreated, the patient will develop systemic sepsis followed by multiorgan failure.
The clinical presentation of any perforating injury of the stomach is often very dramatic. Depending upon the size of the wound, the loss of blood and the presence or absence of concomitant injuries, clinical symptoms may range from mild localized pain to signs of peritonitis and shock.
A careful history is important in evaluating patients with neck, chest and abdominal pain. It should include questions about prior bouts of abdominal or chest pain, prior instrumentation (nasogastric tube, endoscopy), prior trauma, prior surgery, malignancy, possible ingestion of foreign bodies, medical conditions (PUD) and medication (NSAIDS, glucocorticoids)
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms typically occur by the 2 to 5 day and include refusal to feed, vomiting, and decreased activity. Most common presenting manifestation is sudden onset of abdominal distension, ileus, respiratory distress and less frequently cyanosis fever vomiting and bloody stool.
Patients with perforation invariably complain of acute onset of severe abdominal pain or chest pain; patient often notices the time of onset of pain. Severe chest or abdominal pain following instrumentation is highly suspicious. Patients on immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory agents may have an impaired inflammatory response and some may have little or no pain and tenderness. Many of them will seek medical attention with the onset of pain but a few will present in a delayed fashion (may present with sepsis). Irritation of the diaphragm may occur leading to pain radiating to the shoulder. Sepsis can be the initial presentation of perforation. The ability of the peritoneal surfaces to wall off a perforation may be impaired in patients with severe medical comorbidities particularly frail, elderly, and immunosuppressed patients, resulting in sepsis.
Should include vital signs, a thorough examination of the neck, chest, abdomen and rectal examination. The majority of patients will have tachycardia, tachypnea, fever and generalized abdominal tenderness, Bowe sounds are usually absent and rebound and guarding may be present. A digital rectal and bimanual pelvic exam should be done to rule out other causes like a tubo ovarian abscess, appendicitis or perforated sigmoid diverticulitis.
Diagnosis usually confirmed by radiological imaging showing free intraperitoneal air. Another reported suggestive sign is the lack of an air-fluid level in the stomach in a horizontal beam view and a relative paucity of gas in the distal bowel.
The diagnostic approach in patients with abdominal pain starts with plain films. The sensitivity of plain films for detecting extra luminal free air ranges from 50% to 70%. Ultrasound (US) has also been studied and shows excellent potential for identifying pneumoperitoneum. The most useful imaging modality is CT scan that is highly sensitive and specific for free air.
CT Findings for Perforation
In complex cases, one may need to perform a diagnostic laparoscopy to determine the cause and obtain and fluid for culture and biochemistry.
Initial management consists of resuscitation, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and broad-spectrum antibiotics, and the passage of the nasogastric tube. Intravenous opiate analgesia and PPIs should be given as necessary. A urinary catheter enables close monitoring of urine output. Surgical management is the main line of treatment for most stomach perforations. Emergency surgical repair (open or laparoscopic) is indicated in nearly all cases.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics have been shown to reduce the risk of wound infection. Metronidazole and either a cephalosporin or an aminoglycoside will suffice.
Treatment is primarily surgically done at the earliest possible time. In gunshot or stab wound the posterior, as well as the anterior wall, may be injured simultaneously. Accordingly, exploration of the posterior wall is obligatory in every instance by adequately detaching the gastrocolic ligament and pulling the stomach upward. There are cases where the posterior wall alone was injured by GSW or stab wound to the anterior wall. This can happen if, at the time of the accident, the stomach was so tightly filled that the greater curvature rotating around the longitudinal axis of the stomach, has turned forward and upward
Other causes of abdominal pain, as well as other causes of pneumoperitoneum, include patients on respiratory support, due to CPAP or PEEP, endoscopy, paracentesis, peritoneal dialysis, and vaginal instrumentation.
Over the past 3 decades, the prognosis of patients with gastric perforation has improved. But delays in diagnosis and treatment can lead to death. Factors linked to high mortality include:
Complications following gastric perforation include the following:
The risk of complications is increased in the presence of:
Recovery is usually slow after repair of gastric perforation. The patient may need intravenous (IV) fluids for a few days and nasogastric decompression until the drainage subsides.
Most patients with a gastric perforation present to the emergency room. Once the diagnosis is made, immediate general surgery consultation should be obtained. These patients will also need a bed in the intensive care unit.
Minimize the risks of gastric perforations during endoscopy.
Natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) has led to several methods of endoscopic gastric closure.
The diagnosis and management of gastric perforation is with an interprofessional team that consists of a surgeon, emergency department physician, radiologist, gastroenterologist and nurse practitioner. Once the diagnosis is made, the only curative treatment is surgery. Because many patients are seriously ill, a gastric perforation is usually managed with a repair. In the post operative period, the patient must be continued on PPI to prevent recurrence. Untreated or delayed cases carry a very high mortality.
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