Pneumoperitoneum in peritoneal dialysis patients

Joseph J. Chang, Jane Y Yeun, James A. Hasbargen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


There has been recent controversy regarding the clinical significance of pneumoperitoneum in patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis. The incidence of pneumoperitoneum has been estimated to be 21.2% to 33.7% in prior studies of peritoneal dialysis patients. Of the peritoneal dialysis patients with pneumoperitoneum, only a small percentage (5.9% to 14.3%) had documented visceral perforations. The controversy arises in that anywhere from 20% to 100% of peritoneal dialysis patients with pneumoperitoneum and peritonitis had visceral perforation, and 32.4% to 57.1% of chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis patients had asymptomatic pneumoperitoneum of unknown etiology. These disparate incidences made clinical interpretation of pneumoperitoneum difficult. In addition, prior study result disagreed as to the usefulness of the extent of pneumoperitoneum in predicting visceral perforation. We retrospectively reviewed 694 chest x-ray film and acute abdominal series reports from 1982 to 1993 in 75 peritoneal dialysis patients, with 9.3 ± 1.3 (mean ± SEM) x-ray films per patient. The reports were confirmed by reviewing 363 x-ray films (52%). Eight patients (10.7%) had 10 episodes of pneumoperitoneum. Six of these eight patients had asymptomatic pneumoperitoneum from a known etiology: four had undergone abdominal surgery for catheter placement the prior week and two had catheter manipulation immediately preceding the x-ray. One patient had three episodes of pneumoperitoneum: one after catheter placement and two not associated with a known etiology for pneumoperitoneum while on the cycler. One patient had a surgically confirmed colonic perforation with a large pneumoperitoneum and peritonitis. The patients with asymptomatic, nonpostoperative pneumoperitoneum had small amounts of subdiaphragmatic air. We conclude that in peritoneal dialysis patients, the overall incidence of pneumoperitoneum and the incidence of asymptomatic pneumoperitoneum of unknown etiology are variable and depend to a large extent on the patient's technical competence in performing exchanges. However, pneumoperitoneum with peritonitis requires aggressive evaluation for visceral perforation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-301
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • chest x-ray
  • peritoneal dialysis
  • peritonitis
  • Pneumoperitoneum
  • visceral perforation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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