The epidemic of cocaine-related juxtapyloric perforations: With a comment on the importance of testing for Helicobacter pylori

David V. Feliciano, John C. Ojukwu, Grace S. Rozycki, Robert B. Ballard, Walter L. Ingram, Jeffrey Salomone, Nicholas Namias, Paul G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: This is a report of 50 consecutive patients with juxtapyloric perforations after smoking 'crack' cocaine (cocaine base) at one urban public hospital. Summary Background Data: Although the exact causal relation between smoking crack cocaine and a subsequent juxtapyloric perforation has not been defined, surgical services in urban public hospitals now treat significant numbers of male addicts with such perforations. This report describes the patient set, presentation, and surgical management and suggests a possible role for Helicobacter pylori in contributing to these perforations. Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed, supplemented by data from the patient log in the department of surgery. Results: From 1994 to 1998, 50 consecutive patients (48 men, 2 women) with a mean age of 37 had epigastric pain and signs of peritonitis a median of 2 to 4 hours (but up to 48 hours) after smoking crack cocaine. A history of chronic smoking of crack as well as chronic alcohol abuse was noted in all patients; four had a prior history of presumed ulcer disease in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Free air was present on an upright abdominal x-ray in 84% of patients, and all underwent operative management. A 3- to 5-mm juxtapyloric perforation, usually in the prepyloric area, was found in all patients. Omental patch closure was used in 49 patients and falciform ligament closure in 1. Two patients underwent parietal cell vagotomy as well. In the later period of the review, antral mucosal biopsies were performed through the juxtapyloric perforation in five patients. Urease testing was positive for infection with H. pylori in four, and these patients were prescribed appropriate antimicrobial drugs. Conclusions: Juxtapyloric perforations after the smoking of crack cocaine occur in a largely male population of drug addicts who are 8 to 10 years younger than the patient group that historically has perforations in the pyloroduodenal area. These perforations are usually 3 to 5 mm in diameter, and an antral mucosal biopsy for subsequent urease testing should be performed if the location and size of the ulcer allow this to be done safely. Omental patch closure is appropriate therapy for patients without a history of prior ulcer disease; antimicrobial therapy and omeprazole are prescribed when H. pylori is present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-806
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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