Background: PEG is a widely used method for providing nutritional support. Although pneumoperitoneum is a known finding after PEG placement, its true incidence is subject to debate. Small retrospective studies have found varied rates of free air after PEG placement.
Patients: There were a total of 65 patients.
Objective: To assess the true incidence of pneumoperitoneum and its clinical significance.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Interventions: We obtained upright and anterior-posterior chest radiographs of 65 patients within 3 hours after PEG placement. Type of PEG tube, gauge of the needle used, number of sticks, and indications were recorded. The presence of pneumoperitoneum on the initial chest film was considered to be a positive finding. After a positive result, a repeat chest film was obtained 72 hours later to determine whether there was progression or resolution of the free air. Patients enrolled in the study were also monitored clinically for evidence of peritonitis.
Main outcome: Of the 65 patients who underwent PEG placement, 13 developed a pneumoperitoneum on the initial chest radiograph; there was complete resolution of pneumoperitoneum at 72 hours in 10 of the 13 patients. In 3 patients, the free air persisted but was of no clinical significance.
Measurements: The free air was quantified by measuring the height of the air column under the diaphragm and was graded with a scoring system (0, no air; 1, small; 2, moderate; 3, large).
Results: Eleven patients who underwent PEG died during the hospitalization; none of the deaths were related to the PEG placement or pneumoperitoneum. The other 54 patients were discharged to a skilled nursing facility. No patients in the study had clinical evidence of peritonitis. There were no adverse events, ie, infection or bleeding, associated with the PEG placement in any of the patients.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that pneumoperitoneum after PEG placement is common and, in the absence of clinical symptoms, is of no clinical significance and does not warrant any further intervention.