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Perforated Bowel

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is a perforated bowel?

A perforated bowel happens when a medical condition, such as diverticulitis, causes a hole or tear in your bowel. An injury or blockage may also perforate your bowel. Bowel contents can leak into your abdomen through the hole. This may cause a life-threatening infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of a perforated bowel?

  • Severe abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting

How is a perforated bowel diagnosed?

A CT scan of your abdomen will be used to show any perforation in your bowel. You may be given contrast dye to help your bowel show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is a perforated bowel treated?

  • Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Bowel rest allows your bowel to heal. You cannot eat or drink during bowel rest, but you will receive nutrition and liquids through an IV. A nasogastric (NG) tube will be placed in your nose and down to your stomach. This tube will be used to remove liquids from your stomach to keep your digestive system empty.
  • Surgery may be used to repair the perforation, or remove a diseased part of your bowel. Your healthcare provider may use a scope or open abdominal surgery to repair your bowel.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I reduce my risk for a perforated bowel?

Reduce your risk for constipation, which can lead to blockage and perforation. Follow your healthcare provider's directions about how much fiber, liquids, and exercise you need. Fiber, liquids, and exercise will help you have regular bowel movements.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your bowel movements are less frequent than your healthcare provider says is safe.
  • You suddenly lose your appetite.
  • Your abdomen feels bloated.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek care immediately or call 911?

  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have frequent episodes of nausea and vomiting.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.