A perforated ulcer occurs when an ulcer in the stomach has eroded completely through the stomach lining, leaving a hole for stomach acid and food contents to enter other body cavities. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.
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When an ulcer has eaten through the stomach lining, patients will likely experience severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. Vomit may be bloody with a look of coffee grounds. Patients may also experience bloody stools that have the look of tar.
Risk for Perforation
Patients with known ulcers put themselves at an increased risk for perforation if they do not treat it properly with diet modification and medications. For example, a patient with an ulcer who continues to take aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., motrin) run the risk of worsening the already acidic environment in the stomach, leading to more acid production and more erosion.
Because perforation creates a hole in the stomach wall, gastric juices and material leak into the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity). It can also contain bile, undigested food, and bacteria. This can result in a condition called peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining and can lead to possible infection.
Perforated ulcers were once thought to benefit only from surgical intervention. However, depending on severity and range of symptoms, it may work just as well to treat it with strict diets and medication.
Laparoscopic surgery is commonly used to treat perforated ulcers. It involves making inch long incisions and using special cameras and medical instruments to work within the abdomen without completely opening the patient up. The risks for infection and complications are much lower with this type of surgery and patients overall recovering time is better.
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