To determine which clinical, laboratory, and radiographic parameters predict positive operative findings in patients with pneumatosis intestinalis on computed tomography (CT).
Retrospective record review.
Tertiary care hospital and affiliated community hospital.
One hundred fifty consecutive patients diagnosed as having pneumatosis intestinalis on CT.
Main Outcome Measures
Presence or absence of abdominal pathological findings at laparotomy and mortality rates.
Of the 150 patients studied, 54 (36%) were managed nonoperatively, 72 (48%) were managed operatively, and 24 (16%) were considered unsalvageable and given comfort measures only. Sixty patients (47%) improved with nonoperative management or had negative intraoperative findings. In the nonoperative group, 50 (93%) improved (n = 50) and 3 (5%) crossed over to surgery. One patient (2%) died. In the operative group, 63 patients (87%) had operative findings requiring intervention and 9 (13%) had negative results on exploration. Twenty-one patients (28%) died. Univariate analysis identified numerous predictors of positive intraoperative findings, including history of coronary artery disease, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, peritonitis, abdominal distention, and lactic acidemia. The significant radiographic findings included dilated loops of bowel, portal venous gas, and atherosclerosis on CT. On multivariate analysis, only abdominal distention (odds ratio = 13.19; P = .001), peritonitis (odds ratio = 9.35; P = .007), and lactic acidemia (odds ratio = 2.29; P = .02) were predictive of positive intraoperative findings.
Many patients with pneumatosis intestinalis on CT can be successfully treated nonoperatively. In determining a management strategy, abnormal physical examination findings were more predictive of the need for surgical intervention than laboratory values or radiographic findings.