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Massive surgical emphysema after perineal proctosigmoidectomy


An 83-year-old woman underwent an elective perineal proctosigmoidectomy (Altemeier procedure) for a rectal prolapse. On postoperative day 1, the patient presented with impressive subcutaneous emphysema involving the chest, neck and face without any other symptoms. A CT scan showed free air in the retroperitoneum, the intraperitoneal cavity, the mediastinum and a subcutaneous emphysema of the neck and the face. Air was also found around the coloanal anastomosis and an anastomotic leak was proven by rectal contrast agent. In this situation, a rectoscopy followed by a laparoscopy were immediately performed. The leak could not be visualised. Peritoneal lavage and drainage, followed by protective sigmoidostomy were carried out. After surgery, the follow-up was uneventful except a persistent but asymptomatic leak with a presacral cavity. The coloanal dehiscence was later proven in rectoscopy. Although sutured, it is still present and colostomy closure will eventually be possible in a few months.

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