Factors associated with successful median arcuate ligament release in an international, multi-institutional cohort

J Vasc Surg. 2023 Feb;77(2):567-577.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2022.10.022. Epub 2022 Oct 26.


Objective: Prior research on median arcuate ligament syndrome has been limited to institutional case series, making the optimal approach to median arcuate ligament release (MALR) and resulting outcomes unclear. In the present study, we compared the outcomes of different approaches to MALR and determined the predictors of long-term treatment failure.

Methods: The Vascular Low Frequency Disease Consortium is an international, multi-institutional research consortium. Data on open, laparoscopic, and robotic MALR performed from 2000 to 2020 were gathered. The primary outcome was treatment failure, defined as no improvement in median arcuate ligament syndrome symptoms after MALR or symptom recurrence between MALR and the last clinical follow-up.

Results: For 516 patients treated at 24 institutions, open, laparoscopic, and robotic MALR had been performed in 227 (44.0%), 235 (45.5%), and 54 (10.5%) patients, respectively. Perioperative complications (ileus, cardiac, and wound complications; readmissions; unplanned procedures) occurred in 19.2% (open, 30.0%; laparoscopic, 8.9%; robotic, 18.5%; P < .001). The median follow-up was 1.59 years (interquartile range, 0.38-4.35 years). For the 488 patients with follow-up data available, 287 (58.8%) had had full relief, 119 (24.4%) had had partial relief, and 82 (16.8%) had derived no benefit from MALR. The 1- and 3-year freedom from treatment failure for the overall cohort was 63.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 59.0%-68.3%) and 51.9% (95% CI, 46.1%-57.3%), respectively. The factors associated with an increased hazard of treatment failure on multivariable analysis included robotic MALR (hazard ratio [HR], 1.73; 95% CI, 1.16-2.59; P = .007), a history of gastroparesis (HR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.09-3.09; P = .023), abdominal cancer (HR, 10.3; 95% CI, 3.06-34.6; P < .001), dysphagia and/or odynophagia (HR, 2.44; 95% CI, 1.27-4.69; P = .008), no relief from a celiac plexus block (HR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.00-4.72; P = .049), and an increasing number of preoperative pain locations (HR, 1.12 per location; 95% CI, 1.00-1.25; P = .042). The factors associated with a lower hazard included increasing age (HR, 0.99 per increasing year; 95% CI, 0.98-1.0; P = .012) and an increasing number of preoperative diagnostic gastrointestinal studies (HR, 0.84 per study; 95% CI, 0.74-0.96; P = .012) Open and laparoscopic MALR resulted in similar long-term freedom from treatment failure. No radiographic parameters were associated with differences in treatment failure.

Conclusions: No difference was found in long-term failure after open vs laparoscopic MALR; however, open release was associated with higher perioperative morbidity. These results support the use of a preoperative celiac plexus block to aid in patient selection. Operative candidates for MALR should be counseled regarding the factors associated with treatment failure and the relatively high overall rate of treatment failure.

Keywords: MALS; Median arcuate ligament release; Median arcuate ligament syndrome; VLFDC; Vascular Low Frequency Disease Consortium.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Celiac Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Celiac Artery / surgery
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy* / adverse effects
  • Ligaments / surgery
  • Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome* / complications
  • Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome* / surgery
  • Treatment Failure