What are the signs and symptoms of perforated peptic ulcer disease (PUD)?

Updated: Apr 26, 2021
  • Author: BS Anand, MD; Chief Editor: Philip O Katz, MD, FACP, FACG  more...
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Answer

Patients with perforated peptic ulcer disease usually present with a sudden onset of severe, sharp abdominal pain. Most patients describe generalized pain; a few present with severe epigastric pain. As even slight movement can tremendously worsen their pain, these patients assume a fetal position. Abdominal examination usually discloses generalized tenderness, rebound tenderness, guarding, and rigidity. However, the degree of peritoneal findings is strongly influenced by a number of factors, including the size of the perforation, amount of bacterial and gastric contents contaminating the abdominal cavity, time between perforation and presentation, and spontaneous sealing of perforation.

These patients may also demonstrate signs and symptoms of septic shock, such as tachycardia, hypotension, and anuria. Not surprisingly, these indicators of shock may be absent in elderly or immunocompromised patients or in those with diabetes. Patients should be asked if retching and vomiting occurred before the onset of pain.


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