Belly Dancer Syndrome: An Unusual Cause of Abdominal Pain

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Belly dancer syndrome is a rare condition consisting of involuntary, repetitive, often rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm, causing undulating movements of the abdomen that recall those of a belly dancer. It is frequently associated with pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen or lower chest, but clinical symptoms are highly variable often resulting in late diagnosis. Very few pediatric cases have been reported, all of which were secondary to other conditions, and to our knowledge, no idiopathic cases of Belly Dancer Syndrome have been reported in children.


We present the case of a 14-year-old girl who presented to the emergency department with sudden onset of abdominal pain. She was initially diagnosed and treated for pancreatitis because blood tests revealed very high lipase, but when jerky abdominal wall movements became pronounced, belly dancer syndrome was suspected. Full work-up included abdominal ultrasound, chest x-ray, electroencephalogram, electromyography, magnetic resonance imaging, and toxic screen, all of which were normal. She was treated successfully with oral diazepam and referred to a pediatric neuropsychiatrist.


Belly dancer syndrome is a rare condition often misdiagnosed owing to multiple presentations. Increased awareness is necessary to prevent late diagnosis and incorrect treatment.

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