What are the dangers of a perforated bowel?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

A perforated bowel — otherwise known as gastrointestinal perforation, intestinal perforation and ruptured bowel — occurs when the wall of your gastrointestinal tract tears. Though there are many causes of a perforated bowel, one well-known cause is an accident that occurs during a surgical procedure.

You have a heightened risk of a perforated bowel if you undergo a colonoscopy or endoscopy. If you or a loved one undergoes either type of procedure, be on the lookout for symptoms of a perforated bowel, as, if left untreated, it can result in severe and life-threatening complications. MedicalNewsToday explores the signs of gastrointestinal perforation and possible complications.

Symptoms of a perforated bowel

Following any type of surgical procedure, your medical team should closely monitor you for symptoms of common and not-so-common complications. However, whether due to understaffing or just plain negligence, your team may miss signs of intestinal perforation. For this reason, it is imperative that you monitor yourself or a loved one for the following symptoms in the hours and days following a colonoscopy or endoscopy:

  • Severe abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Protrusion in your abdomen or an abdomen that feels hard to the touch
  • Pain that gets worse when you move around or when pressure is on your abdomen
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The pain associated with a perforated bowel may come on suddenly, or it may occur gradually. However, once the pain begins, it remains constant.

Complications of a perforated bowel

If your doctor fails to identify the symptoms of perforated bowel and treat the condition right away, you may develop peritonitis. Peritonitis occurs when the contents of the small intestine, large intestine or stomach seep into the abdominal cavity and carry along with it bacteria, thereby resulting in inflammation of the peritoneum. If left untreated, peritonitis can rapidly progress into sepsis or blood poisoning. Sepsis can lead to organ failure and eventual death.

Symptoms that gastrointestinal perforation is developing into peritonitis include toileting less; rapid heart rate; fatigue; shortness of breath; and dizziness. As peritonitis turns into sepsis, you or a loved one may experience fever, confusion, rapid breathing and increased heart rate.

Other complications of perforated bowel include abdominal abscesses and permanent bowel damage. In some cases, a part of the bowel may die.

Gastrointestinal perforation is a very serious and oftentimes preventable condition. Even if your medical team did not prevent it, it could and should have prevented complications. If it did not, or if you are seeking justice on behalf of a loved one, seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.


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