Constipation in a 7-year-old boy: congenital band causing a strangulated small bowel and pulseless electrical activity

J Emerg Med. 2012 Mar;42(3):283-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2010.05.092. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Background: Constipation in pediatric patients is a common diagnosis in the emergency department (ED) and may occasionally arise from a significant underlying illness.

Objective: To discuss a rare cause of constipation that led to a strangulated small bowel and cardiac arrest.

Case report: A 7-year-old boy presented in pulseless electrical activity. The patient had been seen in the ED 2 days prior with the complaint of abdominal pain, which was diagnosed as constipation. The boy had emigrated from Mexico 18 months earlier. The patient was resuscitated in the ED and taken emergently to the operating room. During surgery he was discovered to have a congenital abdominal adhesive band that led to a strangulated small bowel. He suffered subsequent multi-organ failure, including hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and was hospitalized for 5 months. One month after discharge he was improving and being followed by multiple providers.

Conclusion: Congenital adhesive bands, although rare, may be life-threatening anomalies. We present this case to increase awareness of this condition among emergency physicians.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Output
  • Child
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / congenital*
  • Intestine, Small / abnormalities*
  • Male
  • Multiple Organ Failure / etiology