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October 1997

Outcome After Exploratory Laparoscopy for Unexplained Abdominal Pain in Childhood

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(10):993-998. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170470027006

Background:  Abdominal pain in childhood is common yet frustrating when unexplained.

Objective:  To describe the clinical features and outcome of 8 children (6 girls and 2 boys; mean[±SD] age, 13±2 years) with unexplained abdominal pain who underwent exploratory laparoscopy.

Setting:  All 8 patients were examined at an academic pediatric gastroenterology center and referred for exploratory laparoscopy because of unexplained abdominal pain. Laparoscopy was offered after family agreement to pursue behavioral management if the pain and disability did not improve.

Results:  In all 8 children, laparoscopy detected an anomaly at a site corresponding to that of the abdominal pain. Findings were adhesions in 7 children (3 colonic, 2 ileocecal, 1 gastric, and 1 appendiceal) and ovarian torsion in 1 child. At a mean follow-up of 12.6 months, the abdominal pain had completely resolved in 6 children, notably improved in 1 child, and continued unchanged in 1 child. Disability completely resolved in 2 of 3 children.

Conclusions:  In children with unexplained abdominal pain that is acute in onset, well described, and suggestive of peritoneal involvement, exploratory laparoscopy (1) successfully ends the cycle of abdominal pain in most cases; and (2) commonly identifies abnormalities, usually adhesions. However, whether laparoscopy, the placebo effect, or both promote the healing process is unclear. Further study is needed to develop criteria for referral for laparoscopic evaluation of unexplained abdominal pain.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:993-998