Clinical reasoning: a 39-year-old man with abdominal cramps

Neurology. 2013 Jul 9;81(2):e5-9. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31829a335e.


A 39-year-old lawyer presented with intermittent spasms and pain in his abdominal muscles, particularly the right upper quadrant. These had occurred since his mid-20s and there had been long asymptomatic periods, including 8 years prior to the most recent 4-month exacerbation. Trivial movement triggered a spasm of the abdominal muscles, leading to severe pain, which made breathing uncomfortable and interfered with sleep. The symptoms subsided spontaneously after 4 to 5 days, leaving him with a sore abdomen for several weeks. Past attacks had also been precipitated by specific forms of repetitive exercise such as jogging. He described ill-defined numbness in the left leg, but denied any muscle twitching, weakness, back pain, or sphincter disturbance. There was no significant past medical or family history.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Syringomyelia / diagnosis*
  • Syringomyelia / pathology
  • Syringomyelia / physiopathology