Current Concepts in Clinical Surgery

Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 393, Issue 6, pp 833-847

First online:

Current insights in intra-abdominal hypertension and abdominal compartment syndrome: open the abdomen and keep it open!

  • Inneke E. De laetAffiliated withICU, ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen Campus Stuivenberg
  • , Mariska RavytsAffiliated withICU, ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen Campus Stuivenberg
  • , Wesley VidtsAffiliated withICU, ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen Campus Stuivenberg
  • , Jody ValkAffiliated withDepartment of Abdominal Surgery, ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen Campus Stuivenberg
  • , Jan J. De WaeleAffiliated withSurgical ICU, Ghent University Hospital
  • , Manu L. N. G. MalbrainAffiliated withICU, ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen Campus Stuivenberg Email author 

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Background and aims

The abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) is associated with organ dysfunction and mortality in critically ill patients. Furthermore, the deleterious effects of increased IAP have been shown to occur at levels of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) previously deemed to be safe. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of all aspects of this underrecognized pathological syndrome for surgeons.

Methods and contents

This review article will focus primarily on the recent literature on ACS as well as the definitions and recommendations published by the World Society for the Abdominal Compartment Syndrome. The definitions regarding increased IAP will be listed, followed by a brief but comprehensive overview of the different mechanisms of organ dysfunction associated with intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH). Measurement techniques for IAP will be discussed, as well as recommendations for organ function support in patients with IAH. Finally, surgical treatment and management of the open abdomen are briefly discussed, as well as some minimally invasive techniques to decrease IAP.


The ACS was first described in surgical patients with abdominal trauma, bleeding, or infection, but in recent years ACS has also been described in patients with other pathologies such as burn injury and sepsis. Some of these so-called nonsurgical patients will require surgery to treat their ACS. This review article is intended to provide surgeons with a clear insight into the current state of knowledge regarding IAH, ACS, and the impact of IAP on the critically ill patient.


Abdominal pressure Abdominal hypertension Abdominal compartment syndrome Diagnosis Pathophysiology Treatment