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May 17, 1976

Pneumatosis Intestinalis Following Common Upper-Respiratory-Tract Infection

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Cardiovascular Disease, Lahey Clinic Foundation, Boston.

JAMA. 1976;235(20):2221-2222. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260460041022

PNEUMATOSIS intestinalis (PI), ie, the presence of intramural-gas pseudocysts parallel to the long axis of the intestine, is invariably a consequence of intra-abdominal or chronic pulmonary disease. In our patient, pneumatosis coli developed after a mild upper-respiratory-tract infection (URI), which was hallmarked by paroxysms of cough. The case report suggests that recurrent cough in a person with normal pulmonary status can induce the pneumatosis phenomenon.

Report of a Case  A healthy 14-year-old girl was first seen because of cough, rhinorrhea, and fever. Rales were heard in the right lung base, and a diagnosis of viral URI and viral pneumonitis was made clinically. No evidence of pericarditis or pleuritis was noted. Erythromycin (Erythrocin), 1 gm daily, was prescribed but discontinued by the patient after two days. Nonproductive coughing persisted and often recurred in paroxysms. On the seventh day, nausea and vomiting ensued, and diffuse abdominal pain at times was relieved by