Intense Stomach Pain Could Be Treatable Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS)

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If you suffer from intense stomach pain, especially after eating, you could have median arcuate ligament syndrome. It is easily treatable. Learn about the diagnosis, symptoms and treatment for MALS.

A somewhat rare medical condition can cause intense stomach pain after eating every meal. The pain is so intense that is does not matter if it is rare or not to the people who suffer from this health problem. They live with this intense stomach pain and don’t even want to eat. The good news is that median arcuate ligament syndrome is easily treatable.

Symptoms of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS)

Living a life with constant intense stomach pain would be a life of complete misery. This stomach pain can be triggered after eating a meal, exercising or just taking a walk. The intense pain is centered in the abdominal area and usually occurs during and after eating a meal, but the pain can also occur at any other time. There can also be other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and weight loss along with the intense stomach pain.

This somewhat rare median arcuate ligament syndrome came to the public’s attention when a girl by the name of Susannah was diagnosed and treated for this health condition. She was in so much pain she missed at least 60 days of school and couldn’t participate in gymnastics or any other type of sports. Since Susannah’s story was made public, other people have been diagnosed, treated and cured after living a life of stomach pain, including an 18 year old girl from Parker, Colorado. Alexa of Parker lived a miserable life with constant stomach pain that no doctor could diagnose. Alexa said her stomach felt like it was having a heart attack every time she ate food.

Diagnosis of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome

Both Susannah and Alexa endured medical test, CAT scans, MRI’s and blood tests with no answers. They were given medications that did not work. These patients were told that it was a functionality problem and would have to live with this constant and intense stomach pain and adjust their lives accordingly. I am not even sure what a functionality issue means in medical terms. Patients are also told it is all in their mind or they are accused of being anorexic or that their health condition is some kind of mental issue.

For people with median arcuate ligament syndrome, the path to finding out what their health problem is can be a long and miserable path. It does seem that median arcuate ligament syndrome is found mainly in teenagers and young adults. Many times, people with median arcuate ligament syndrome are diagnosed wrongly with having health problems like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. Some of these teenagers are passed on to a psychologist when doctors fail to diagnose median arcuate ligament syndrome.

Susannah’s parents found Dr. Donald Liu, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Chicago who thankfully was aware of this health condition. To get a definite median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS) diagnosis, Dr. Liu used ultrasonography, Computed Tomography angiography (CT) and 3-D imaging to get the definitive diagnosis of median arcuate ligament syndrome. In Susannah’s case, it was confirmed it was median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS) that she suffered from.

The Cause of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome

Median arcuate ligament syndrome is caused when the median arcuate ligament presses against the celiac artery, compressing the artery compromising the blood flow and causing these symptoms. The median arcuate ligament is part of the diaphragm that connects the diaphragm with the vertebrae in the lumbar region between the ribs and the pelvis [1].

Treatment of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS)

The treatment for median arcuate ligament syndrome is surgery that will cut the ligament and then the celiac artery springs back with no more compression of this artery and the blood can flow freely again. The surgery that Dr. Liu performs is laparoscopic surgery. This surgery is done by making a few tiny incisions in the stomach to cut the ligament. The surgery is considered minimally invasive and most patients will see complete relief of the intense stomach pain and be able to live a pain free and normal life again.

Alexa saw the story about Susannah on a local television station and found Dr. Eric Kortz at Swedish Hospital in Denver, Colorado where he will perform the surgery on Alexa to relieve her of this condition.


Dr. Liu said that median arcuate ligament syndrome is not rare, it is rarely diagnosed. Now that there is more awareness to this health problem, new patients should be cured quickly and easily of this intense stomach pain caused by median arcuate ligament syndrome.

Copyright © January 2012 Sam Montana


[1] University of Virginia

PubMed - Median arcuate ligament syndrome: a possible cause of idiopathic gastroparesis. Am J Gastroenterol

University of Chicago - Department of Surgery

To contact Dr. Donald Liu

Donald Liu, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Chicago

Chicago, IL


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