Wednesday, December 7, 2011


An 18 year-old girl with end stage renal disease secondary to focal segmental glomerular sclerosis had a double cuff flex neck peritoneal dialysis (PD) catheter uneventfully inserted in order to begin dialysis. Ten days after this procedure, following successful post-operative catheter flushes, she presented with new, intermittent, sharp, right-sided abdominal pain with catheter flushes. Over the next week, she went on to experience progressive peritoneal filling difficulties that required curtailing planned treatments. She was otherwise asymptomatic and, when not on dialysis, reported feeling well. An abdominal x-ray revealed that her catheter had migrated into the right flank, and her dialysis treatments did not improve after recombinant tissue plasminogen activator or an intensified bowel regimen. Her PD catheter was capped, and she was instructed to present for surgical repositioning of the catheter the following day.

In the operating room, the peritoneal catheter was found to be in the right lower quadrant as expected and initially appeared to be surrounded by only inflamed omental remnants. Further dissection of the omentum away from the catheter, however, revealed multiple dense adhesions, including a small loop of bowel and a markedly inflamed appendix, encircling the PD catheter. These adhesions were lysed, freeing the PD catheter from the appendix. After a pause to discuss these findings with her mother, the surgeon proceeded to perform a previously unplanned appendectomy. The PD catheter was relocated to the pelvis and flushed with ease.

This case highlights a rare but previously documented cause of PD catheter obstruction: appendiceal entrapment. However, this case has a few significant differences from the literature. First, and most notably, the patient’s pathologically-confirmed appendicitis did not present with signs or symptoms consistent with this disease (fever, localized abdominal pain, elevated WBC). Catheter obstruction and malposition were our only clues, and even en route to the OR, both the medical and surgical teams believed this to be a simple case of catheter malposition, perhaps with an element of omental adherence. Second, this case questions the current literature’s suggested management of surgical peritonitis, which centers around catheter removal and dialysis interruption. HS’s catheter was left in, and her pain, catheter flows, and dialysis treatments dramatically improved post-operatively. Perhaps the most important lesson that I take away from this case, though, is to quickly consider the more rare surgical causes of PD catheter obstruction and even peritonitis when conventional medical treatments fail.

Posted by Matt O'Rourke


Anonymous said...

What did her PD fluid show? One might expect a polyclonal growth, or at least increased WCC in the PD fluid indicating inflammation/infection in this setting- might be the only clinical clue

Matt said...

I agree, but her fluid was clear, had 20 WBC, without a left shift. If the pathology didn't confirm, I would be skeptical of the call.