We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Pneumoperitoneum?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Pneumoperitoneum is the presence of air in the abdominal cavity. There are a number of reasons for a person to develop air inside the abdominal cavity and it is important to determine why the air is present when pneumoperitoneum is identified on a medical imaging study. It can be a sign of a medical emergency that requires prompt surgical intervention in order to prevent future complications and other medical issues. It may also be a normal circumstance that does not require aggressive treatment.

Patients with this condition may develop symptoms like abdominal pain and tenderness in addition to other symptoms related to the cause of the air buildup. Relatively small amounts of air may be present in the abdomen. Medical imaging studies such as CT scans are used to visualize the abdomen and modern imaging equipment can identify very small pockets of air. The shape, size, and location of the air pocket can provide important diagnostic clues.

A serious potential cause of air in the abdominal cavity is a perforation of the bowel or another organ, as may occur when an ulcer or abscess ruptures. Infections with bacteria that generate gas as a byproduct can also cause the condition. Sometimes air or gas enters through the female reproductive tract or as a consequence of constipation. It can also be iatrogenic, meaning that it is caused by a surgical procedure or other activity.

In fact, during laparoscopy, a procedure where tools are inserted into the abdomen through small incisions to conduct surgery, air is introduced deliberately. The abdomen is inflated with gas in order to make the surgical field clearer and easier to see. The gas is expelled after surgery but it is usually not completely removed, and the patient may have pneumoperitoneum for several weeks after the surgery until the gas deposit is dispersed by the body.

When a patient has pneumoperitoneum, the first step in treatment is finding out why, in order to develop an appropriate treatment approach. This may require additional diagnostic testing along with a patient interview. In some cases, conservative treatment is the most sensible course of action, with a doctor taking a wait and see approach to see if the patient's body is able to eliminate the gas on its own. If the pneumoperitoneum is a complication of an infection or rupture, surgery to correct the problem is required, preferably as quickly as possible. Perforations and infections can rapidly lead to life threatening medical emergencies.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon999510 — On Jan 20, 2018

I have air/gas which presses on my diaphragm, causing difficult breathing. I had a lap cholecyctectomy about four weeks ago, but this continues particularly when I lie down.

By anon346590 — On Aug 29, 2013

Conservative treatment is not long. Otherwise, if serious, then surgery is considered for perforation. Don't worry.

By anon202239 — On Aug 02, 2011

I have no idea, but my dad has just had abdominal surgery on stage 1 colon cancer (was originally a laparoscopy but ended up to be open surgery because of his bleeding). It was supposed to be pretty straightforward.

He now has a pocket of gas, seven days post surgery, and is still in the ICU unit. He has had two CT scans to look at whether the two pieces of gut are leaking (no sign) and what the gas could be.

It is a very worrying time. My poor dad is 78 and is confused, although we are not sure whether it is down to the potential infection (his bloods are fine, cultures from the diarrhea clear, no temp spiking). The response is a very conservative 'wait and see' approach but we are worried senseless.

By bigbellies — On Jun 16, 2011

How long does "conservative treatment" typically last? Through what processes would the body get rid of the air on its own? I've never heard of pneumoperitoneum, and now I wonder if I've had it in the past.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.