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This term is applied to the condition of distension of the abdomen due to the presence of gas or air either in the intestines or in the peritoneal cavity. The term itsclf is very descriptive, as it is derived from the Greeh word tympanon, meaning a drum. It is also termed meteorism. It is somewhat opposite to the presence of fluid in the abdomen called ascites (q.v.).
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This diagram shows the proximity of the stomach and bowel to the heart and lungs and impresses the fact that an accumulation of gas in the digestive viscera may embarrass the heart and the breathing.
Although a certain amount of gas is normally present within the lumen of the gut when putrefaction is present, especially that of hydrogen from gram negative bacteria, its production may be so exaggerated that tympanites becomes obvious. It is therefore sometimes seen in cases of chronic intestinal obstruction. In infectious diseases of local incidence can produce a similar effect, because their poisons paralyse the muscle walls of the alimentary canal so that they become stretched, and unable to pass on the gas by normal peristalsis. The best examples of this type are found in typhoid fever and tuberculous enteritis.
When this flatulence is extreme a state arises called flatulent tympanites (q.v.). It is sometimes caused by excessive amounts of cellnlose in the diet, or when vegetable food is taken to excess and due to poor digestion ferments into gas. It is often accompanied by noisy expulsion of gas, apparently at will. When gas reaches the colon, gurgling noises known as borboryami (q.v.) may be heard, and also the movements of gas are felt; it is finally passed per rectum as "wind."
Any form of peritonitis may be complicated by the presence of gas within the peritoneal cavity, and this naturally occurs more readily when the peritonitis is a complication secondary to the perforation of any part of the gut, from whatever cause it may have arisen. This second t,ype of tympanites is obviously more serious than is the first, and its essential treatment is dependent on the cause; but palliative measures are often adopted and are always necessary when the gas occurs within the intestines themselves.
Thus the local application of a turpentine stupe is often necessary for temporary paralysis of the gut, a condition which is not uncommon after abdominal operations. Extreme cases may require the passage of a stomach tube or the use of a turpentine enema. Oil of cinnamon, too, is sometimes given by the mouth helps arrest fermentation.
TYMPANITES: In Animals. Tympanites results from a number of conditions, such as fermentation, constipation or impaction. It occurs most often after injudicious feeding. The abdomen is distended and, on auscultation, there is an absence of the sounds usually made by the movements of the bowels.
TURPENTINE: For Animals. Turpentine is a very useful drug in veterinary practice. especially in digestive troubles in the herbivorous animals, as it arrests fermentation of herbage and consequent gas formation. It is also an excellent anthelmintic in animals and is well tolerated by both horses and cattle, the dose for either being from 1 to 2 ounccs. The horse's skin is particularly sensitive to turpentine, being very easily blistered. Care is therefore necessary when using a liniment containing the drug. When given internally the medicinally pure drug must be used and not the turpentine used by painters.