Background: Patients who present with abdominal pain after recent laparoscopic surgery present a diagnostic dilemma when pneumoperitoneum is present. Previous studies do not define the duration of postlaparoscopic pneumoperitoneum. In this study, we attempted to define the duration of laparoscopic pneumoperitoneum and to identify factors which affect resolution time. Methods: We followed 57 patients who underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy (34), inguinal hemiorraphy (20), or appendectomy (three). Serial abdominal films were taken until all residual gas was resolved. Results: Thirty patients resolved their pneumoperitoneum within 24 h; 16 patients resolved between 24 h and 3 days; nine patients resolved between 3 and 7 days; two patients resolved between 7 and 9 days. Mean resolution time for all patients was 2.6 ± 2.1 days. There was no apparent difference in resolution time between the three types of procedures; however, the sample size may be insufficient. Duration of the pneumoperitoneum did not correlate with gender, age, weight, initial volume of CO2 used, length of time for the procedure, or postoperative complications. Sixteen patients had bile spillage during cholecystectomy which significantly reduced the duration of postoperative pneumoperitoneum (p < 0.008), resulting in a mean resolution time of 1.3 ± 0.9 days. While 14 patients reported postoperative shoulder pain, no correlation was found between the presence or duration of shoulder pain and the extent or duration of pneumoperitoneum. Conclusions: We conclude that the residual pneumoperitoneum following laparoscopic surgery resolves within 3 days in 81% of patients and within 7 days in 96% of patients. The resolution time was significantly less in patients sustaining intraoperative bile spillage during cholecystectomy. There was no correlation found between postoperative shoulder pain and the presence or duration of the pneumoperitoneum.
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