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Swollen Stomaches Resulting from Intestinal Surgery

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: lrohner • updated: 5/31/2011

There are numerous conditions that can cause a swollen stomach after intestinal surgery. If someone retains fluid due to liver or kidney disease, their stomach can swell. Even certain infections of the abdomen can lead to someone developing a distended stomach.

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    For some people, a swollen stomach after surgery can be a mild or serious situation. The swelling or distended stomach or abdomen is just a result of the moving around of the contents of abdomen and their settling back into place. In other situations, serious infections can cause the stomach to become swollen.

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    Ascites

    Ascites is one cause of a swollen stomach after surgery. This swelling is due to an increase in fluid in the peritoneal cavity of the body. There are many reasons for this to occur after intestinal surgery. It is believed that an increase in pressure results after the surgery and this is versus a decrease in the protein albumin within the blood. Instead of the normal homeostasis, the patient can experience fluid leaving the blood and going into the peritoneal space. This accumulation of fluid results in a swollen stomach. There is a risk associated with ascites, as it also points to increased pressure within the liver cause by chronic liver disease. The fluid can be medical removed using medication such as a diuretic and controlling salt levels.

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    Peritonitis

    Another cause for a swollen stomach or distended abdomen after surgery is a condition called peritonitis. An bacterial or fungal infection can affect the peritoneum that lines the abdominal cavity. This can lead to swelling, nausea, vomiting and fever. Without anti-microbials, this condition can be fatal, if left untreated.

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    Introduction of Air

    The appearance of a swollen stomach after intestinal surgery can be due to the introduction of air or fluid into the abdomen. Some open surgeries will inevitably allow air to enter into the abdomen causing a distended stomach after the surgical wound has been closed. In some cases, the surgeon might need to deliberately place air into the abdomen. For example, a machine called an insufflator can be used to introduce carbon dioxide into the abdomen to view what is contained inside.

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    Excess IV Fluid

    As in the introduction of air to the abdomen, the same thing is true of having intravenous fluid placed into the body during a surgery. It is expected that the gastrointestinal and urinary system will be the first places to get rid of the excess fluid. The fluid can cause abdominal distension until it is eliminated from the body.

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    Kidney Disease

    Another cause for a swollen stomach when someone has had intestinal surgery is kidney disease. The kidneys are one of the organs responsible for maintaining the fluid balance within the body. If there is underlying or unknown kidney disease, intestinal surgery will place a greater demand on the kidneys. As a result, these organs might be unable to filter to remove fluid, as quickly as it is needed. Treatment for a swollen stomach in this case will involve treating the underlying kidney disease. In severe cases, temporary dialysis might be needed to take the strain off the kidneys.

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    Medications

    Certain medications or removal of a medication before surgery can lead to abdominal swelling. Therefore, certain medications given as a pain reliever can cause stomach irritation and a bloated feeling. The opposite of this is true, if the person was on a diuretic to control blood pressure and this is removed prior to surgery, he might develop a swollen feeling due to an accumulation of fluid after surgery. Treatment can involve placing the person onto another diuretic medication to remove the excess fluid.