The incidence and clinical significance of pneumoperitoneum after percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy: a review of 722 cases

Am Surg. 2009 Jan;75(1):39-43.


Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) is the procedure of choice for establishing enteral access in patients unable to take oral feedings. Serious complications are rare; however, misplaced PEGs and PEG/Jejunums can lead to hollow viscus injuries with intra-abdominal contamination and subsequent peritonitis, septicemia, and death. The presence of free intra-abdominal air is a reliable indicator of a perforated viscus and often points to a surgical emergency; however, in the case of PEGs, pneumoperitoneum without a perforated viscus, or "benign pneumoperitoneum" creates a diagnostic dilemma. To determine the incidence and clinical significance of pneumoperitoneum after PEG or PEG/Jejunum (J) we reviewed the records of 722 patients who underwent these procedures at our institution. Of 39 patients found to have free air after PEG/PEG/J placement, 33 (85%) had "benign pneumoperitoneum" and were discharged without complication or surgical intervention. Of the six patients with serious complications related to their procedure, five (83%) had clinical signs of intra-abdominal complications (peritonitis) that helped guide their management. Of these six patients, the two receiving abdominal radiographs instead of abdominal CT scanning had a 50 per cent negative laparotomy rate. We present an algorithm for the management of patients found to have pneumoperitoneum after PEG or PEG/J placement.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Gastrostomy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumoperitoneum / diagnosis
  • Pneumoperitoneum / epidemiology*
  • Pneumoperitoneum / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult