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Jejunal perforation in gallstone ileus – a case series

Louise E Browning1*, Jeremy D Taylor2, Sue K Clark3 and Nariman D Karanjia4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, University Hospital Lewisham, Lewisham, UK

2 Department of Radiology, St. George's Hospital, London, UK

3 Department of Surgery, St Mark's Hospital, Harrow, UK

4 Department of Surgery, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Surrey, UK

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2007, 1:157  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-1-157

Published: 28 November 2007



Gallstone ileus is an uncommon complication of cholelithiasis but an established cause of mechanical bowel obstruction in the elderly. Perforation of the small intestine proximal to the obstructing gallstone is rare, and only a handful of cases have been reported. We present two cases of perforation of the jejunum in gallstone ileus, and remarkably in one case, the gallstone ileus caused perforation of a jejunal diverticulum and is to the best of our knowledge the first such case to be described.

Case presentations

Case 1

A 69 year old man presented with two days of vomiting and central abdominal pain. He underwent laparotomy for small bowel obstruction and was found to have a gallstone obstructing the mid-ileum. There was a 2 mm perforation in the anti-mesenteric border of the dilated proximal jejunum. The gallstone was removed and the perforated segment of jejunum was resected.

Case 2

A 68 year old man presented with a four day history of vomiting and central abdominal pain. Chest and abdominal radiography were unremarkable however a subsequent CT scan of the abdomen showed aerobilia. At laparotomy his distal ileum was found to be obstructed by an impacted gallstone and there was a perforated diverticulum on the mesenteric surface of the mid-jejunum. An enterolithotomy and resection of the perforated small bowel was performed.


Gallstone ileus remains a diagnostic challenge despite advances in imaging techniques, and pre-operative diagnosis is often delayed. Partly due to the elderly population it affects, gallstone ileus continues to have both high morbidity and mortality rates. On reviewing the literature, the most appropriate surgical intervention remains unclear.

Jejunal perforation in gallstone ileus is extremely rare. The cases described illustrate two quite different causes of perforation complicating gallstone ileus. In the first case, perforation was probably due to pressure necrosis caused by the gallstone. The second case was complicated by the presence of a perforated jejunal diverticulum, which was likely to have been secondary to the increased intra-luminal pressure proximal to the obstructing gallstone.

These cases should raise awareness of the complications associated with both gallstone ileus, and small bowel diverticula.