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Case Reports in Critical Care
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 351340, 3 pages
Case Report

The Abdomen in “Thoracoabdominal” Cannot Be Ignored: Abdominal Compartment Syndrome Complicating Extracorporeal Life Support

1University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
2Departments of Surgery, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 Street NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 2T9
3Critical Care Medicine, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 Street NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 2T9
4The Regional Trauma Program, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 Street NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 2T9
5Anesthesia, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 St NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 2T9

Received 20 January 2014; Accepted 31 March 2014; Published 8 May 2014

Academic Editor: Joel Starkopf

Copyright © 2014 Arthur J. Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is an incredible life-saving measure that is being used ever more frequently in the care of the critically ill. Management of these patients requires extreme vigilance on the part of the care providers in recognizing and addressing the complications and challenges that may arise. We present a case of overt abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) in a previously well young male on ECLS with a history of trauma, submersion, hypothermia, and no intra-abdominal injuries. The patient developed ACS soon after ECLS was initiated which resulted in drastically compromised flow rates. Taking into account the patient’s critical status, an emergent laparotomy was performed in the intensive care unit which successfully resolved the ACS and restored ECLS flow. The patient had an unremarkable course following and was weaned off ECLS but unfortunately died from his original anoxic injury. This case highlights several salient points: first, care of patients on ECLS is challenging and multiple etiologies can affect our ability to manage these patients; second, intra-abdominal pressures should be monitored liberally in the critically ill, especially in patients on ECLS; third, protocols for emergent operative treatment outside of traditional operating rooms should be established and care providers should be prepared for these situations.