Probable abdominal compartment syndrome in an 8-month-old child


An 8-month-old, male child was brought to the emergency department (ED) by his parents with difficulty of breathing. The child developed shortness of breath for one day with cough, but he had no fever. According to the parents, they did not notice the abdominal distension. The child was born prematurely at 25 weeks of gestation and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 2 months. Otherwise, he was healthy with minor repeated chest infections and bronchiolitis. In triage, his vital signs were as follows: heart rate:
180 beats/min; respiratory rate: 35 breaths/min; temperature: 35± C; oxygen saturation: 70%; and his blood pressure was undetected. The child was immediately transferred to the resuscitation room. The primary survey showed that the patient was comatose with a Glasgow coma scale of 3/15, the pupils were brisk with an unstable airway, and there was bilateral diminished air entry. The oxygen saturation did not improve despite assisted ventilation using an Ambu bag. The central and peripheral pulsation was weak with a delayed
capillary refill, and the blood glucose level was 9 mmol/L. The abdomen was hugely distended and rigid with minimal rectal bleeding. The patient was immediately intubated and connected to mechanical ventilation with subsequent rising of his oxygen saturation to 100%. A plain chest X-ray examination followed the patient’s intubation. Intravenous access was obtained followed by administration of normal saline (20 ml/kg) with subsequent elevation of the blood pressure (82/50mmHg) and decrease in heart rate (160 beats/minute). Initial arterial blood gases (ABG) analysis after intubation showed pH: 6.6; PaCO2 >150 mmHg; PaO2: 100 mmHg; HCO3: 10mEq/L; and lactic acid: 9 mg/dL. Therefore, a bolus of sodium bicarbonate was given, intravenously. Ventilator parameters were set at the maximum limits to wash out carbon dioxide. Repeated ABG analysis showed pH: 6.7; PaCO2: 135 mmHg; PaO2: 150 mmHg; HCO3: 17 mEq/L; and lactic acid: 6.5 mg/dL. Immediate bedside abdominal X-ray and ultrasonography were carried out to rule out intussusception. The child remained critically ill and unstable with fluctuating vital signs. Despite high ventilator parameters and gasgastric tube suction, the child showed no improvement in the respiratory parameters. The child was then transferred to the operation theatre for decompression laparotomy, which showed small bowel (ileum) ischemia. After surgical decompression, the respiratory parameters improved, and the ventilator
parameters were set back to normal settings for the patient’s age and weight. Unfortunately, the child remained critically ill. Then, he developed sepsis and multiple systems organ failure and died after 2 days.

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IssueVol 7 No 1 (2023): Winter (February) QRcode
SectionCase based learning points
DOI 10.18502/fem.v7i1.11701
Emergency Medicine

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How to Cite
Awadalla S, Mohamed AK. Probable abdominal compartment syndrome in an 8-month-old child. Front Emerg Med. 2023;7(1):e11.


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