Pediatric traumatic abdominal wall hernia as a component of the seatbelt syndrome: a case series and review of the literature

Rebecca Sorber, Felipe E. Pedroso, Clint D. Cappiello, Shaun M. Kunisaki, Eric B. Jelin, Daniel S. Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Blunt impact-induced traumatic abdominal wall hernia (TAWH) is an uncommon pediatric surgical problem classically associated with handlebar injury but increasingly seen with seatbelt use in motor vehicle collisions (MVC). Herein we describe the largest case series of pediatric TAWH to date and review the literature to establish the unique syndromic characteristics of MVC-associated TAWH. Methods: In this single-institution series, we discuss four pediatric patients, all with seatbelt-associated TAWH after high-speed MVC characterized by full-thickness disruption of the lateral abdominal wall. We then performed a review of the literature to identify additional pediatric MVC-associated TAWH and define the characteristics of patients who sustained this unique injury. Results: In addition to the four patients in our case series, five additional pediatric patients presenting with TAWH after restrained MVC were identified in the literature. Of these nine patients, eight (89%) presented with an obvious seatbelt sign (bruising/laceration to the abdominal wall). Six (67%) had associated injuries typical of the seatbelt syndrome, including four spinal flexion injuries (44%) and five bowel injuries requiring repair or resection (56%). Overall, 56% of seatbelt-associated TAWH occurred in children with a BMI percentile > 95%. Conclusions: In this case series and literature review, we note a high rate of seatbelt syndrome injuries in pediatric patients presenting with TAWH after restrained MVC. Suspicion for TAWH should be high in children presenting with a seatbelt sign and should trigger a low threshold for pursuing additional axial imaging. Level of evidence: Level IV; case series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-517
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric surgery international
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Flank hernia
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Pediatric blunt trauma
  • Pediatric trauma
  • Pediatric traumatic hernia
  • Traumatic abdominal wall hernia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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