Psychological Factors and Outcomes in the Surgical Treatment of Pediatric Patients With Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome

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Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS) is a frequently overlooked cause of chronic abdominal pain (CAP), and results in many symptoms that mimic other gastrointestinal conditions that result in CAP. A small, but growing body of literature indicates that surgery improves quality of life (QOL) in patients with MALS. The purpose of the current study was to examine the psychological characteristics of pediatric patients with MALS to determine their prevalence and impact on surgical outcomes.


Thirty-two pediatric patients completed psychological assessments before surgery, and 6 months postsurgical intervention. Descriptive analyses and t tests were conducted to characterize the sample and compare psychosocial and QOL items. To explore possible associations between coping and ultimate changes in QOL, exploratory multiple regressions were conducted.


Comorbid psychological conditions were common, occurring in about half the sample before and after surgery. Current pain significantly improved, as well as patient and parent-reported QOL constructs (Ps < 0.05). Parent-reported observations of patients using catastrophizing or helpless strategies to cope with pain before surgery was significantly associated with changes in patient and parent-reported QOL following surgery (Ps = 0.04).


Comorbid psychological conditions are common in pediatric patients with MALS, and are maintained following surgery. While surgery improved pain and QOL, the need for presurgical psychological interventions for MALS is implicated.

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