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14.04.2017 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2017

Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery 6/2017

Acute Appendicitis, Somatosensory Disturbances (“Head Zones”), and the Differential Diagnosis of Anterior Cutaneous Nerve Entrapment Syndrome (ACNES)

Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery > Ausgabe 6/2017
Rudi M. H. Roumen, Wouter Vening, Rosanne Wouda, Marc M. Scheltinga



Anterior cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome (ACNES) is a neuropathic abdominal wall pain syndrome typically characterized by locally altered skin sensations. On the other hand, visceral disease may also be associated with similar painful and altered skin sensations (“Head zones”). Aim of the study was to determine if patients with acute appendicitis demonstrated somatosensory disturbances in the corresponding right lower quadrant Head zone.


The presence of somatosensory disturbances such as hyperalgesia, hypoesthesia, altered cool perception, or positive pinch test was determined in 100 patients before and after an appendectomy. Potential associations between altered skin sensations and various items including age, sex, history, body temperature, C-reactive protein (CRP), leukocyte count, and type of appendicopathy (normal, inflamed, necrotic, or perforated) were assessed.


A total of 39 patients demonstrated at least one right lower abdominal quadrant skin somatosensory disturbance before the laparoscopic appendectomy. However, locoregional skin sensation normalized in all but 2 patients 2 weeks postoperatively. No differences were found concerning patient characteristics or type of appendicopathy between populations with or without altered lower abdominal skin sensations.


A substantial portion of patients with acute appendicitis demonstrate right lower abdominal somatosensory disturbances that are similar as observed in acute ACNES. Both may be different sides of the same coin and are possibly expressions of segmental phenomena as described by Head. McBurney’s point, a landmark area of maximum pain in acute appendicitis, is possibly a trigger point within a Head zone. Differentiating acute appendicitis from acute ACNES is extremely difficult, but imaging and observation may aid in the diagnostic process.

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