Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) usually presents in infancy with respiratory failure requiring urgent surgical correction. Mortality in this group of patients remains poor and persistent pulmonary hypertension is a significant contributor. It is therefore rare for patients to reach adulthood undiagnosed. CDH is often identified incidentally in adults but when symptoms arise, they relate to the organ involved, and include gastrointestinal symptoms of dyspepsia and obstruction, as well as respiratory complaints such as dyspnoea. We present the case of a 30-year-old woman who was admitted with non-specific symptoms of upper abdominal discomfort but whose deteriorating condition culminated in a cardiac arrest, as an unreported presentation of CDH.
The patient presented initially with severe left upper quadrant pain. Her chest x-ray on admission suggested a raised left hemidiaphragm. She went on to have computed tomography (CT) of the thorax and abdomen as well as oesophagogastroduodenoscopy, which raised the suspicion of diaphragmatic eventration. Repeat CT was performed after the patient collapsed on the ward five days following admission, revealing tracheal deviation, and a strangulated Bochdalek hernia containing stomach and spleen. After transfer to the anaesthetic room, she suffered a cardiac arrest. Advanced life support was required to return spontaneous cardiac function. She was intubated and ventilated, and a needle thoracostomy was performed to decompress the tension gastrothorax.
Emergency laparotomy revealed a gangrenous stomach and spleen. Total gastrectomy with primary Roux-en-Y reconstruction, splenectomy and insertion of a feeding jejunostomy were performed. The patient recovered well postoperatively and was discharged two weeks following surgery.