Medical Definition of Prune belly syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Prune belly syndrome: Partial or complete absence of the abdominal muscles so that the outlines of the intestines are visible through the thin, lax, protruding abdominal wall. The abdominal wall looks shrunken, shriveled and wrinkled like a prehistoric prune.

The prune belly syndrome probably occurs only in males. In addition to the abdominal muscle deficiency, they tend to have genital and urinary abnormalities including dilation (widening) of the urinary tract and cryptorchidism (failure for the testes to descend into the scrotum).

The condition was recognized during the 19th century. The renowned physician William Osler wrote: "In the summer of 1897 a case of remarkable distension of the abdomen was admitted to the wards, with greatly distended bladder, and on my return in September, Dr. Futcher, knowing that I would be interested in it, sent for the child."

There is also a form of abdominal muscle deficiency that is associated with narrowing (stenosis) of the pulmonary artery, mental retardation and deafness. It occurs in both boys and girls.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018

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