Pneumatosis cystoides intestinalis and high breath H2 excretion: insights into the role of H2 in this condition

Gastroenterology. 1995 May;108(5):1560-5. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(95)90707-6.


Patients with pneumatosis cystoides intestinalis have been reported to excrete excessive H2 because of a lack of H2-consuming intestinal bacteria. This study describes a patient with bacterial overgrowth and pneumatosis of the small intestine whose colonic flora avidly consumed H2 but whose small bowel flora produced but did not consume H2. There is no commonly accepted mechanism whereby excessive luminal H2 causes intramural gas. An explanation is proposed in which an initial, transitory source of intramural gas is distinguished from the mechanism that results in the persistence of the gas. Independent of the initial source of gas, rapid diffusion of H2 from the lumen into an intramural gas bubble would cause N2, O2, and CO2 to diffuse from the blood into the bubble. As a result, the bubble would expand and then persist indefinitely as long as H2 continued to diffuse from the lumen to the intramural gas collection.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Breath Tests
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Hydrogen / physiology*
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology
  • Male
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Pneumatosis Cystoides Intestinalis / metabolism*
  • Pneumatosis Cystoides Intestinalis / microbiology


  • Hydrogen
  • Methane