Case of Intermittent Bursts of Abdominal Wall Jerky Movements

Belly dancer's syndrome
Image credits: Healthline
  • Belly dancer’s syndrome is defined as diaphragmatic myoclonic jerks, which can cause chest and abdominal pain and dyspnoea.
  • The clinical presentation of the syndrome includes rhythmic involuntary undulations of the abdomen.
  • The syndrome is often confused with other diagnoses because of the presentation. A key diagnostic tool for the syndrome includes electromyography.

Belly dancer’s syndrome, also referred to as diaphragmatic flutter, is a rare condition that presents with involuntary, repetitive, and rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm. This causes vibration of the abdomen, similar to the movement of a belly dancer.

Case study: Belly dancer’s syndrome

This article describes the case of a 47-year-old Iraqi Kurdish woman who presented with sudden onset of frequent, intermittent, and painful abdominal wall jerky movements with a history of 1 day. These movements were absent during sleep. Doctors prescribed the patient with clindamycin and metronidazole. Her postoperative period was uneventful, and she was discharged on the 2nd day.

The A&E interns further referred the patient to the general surgical department for consultation

The appearance of the movements prompted the interns to think about intestinal obstruction. The surgeon suggested symptomatic treatment with observation and nothing by mouth. On the 3rd day doctors examined the patient and diagnosed the patient with belly dancer’s syndrome. She was further referred for brain and spinal MRI, findings of which were unremarkable. Similarly, other investigation included blood tests, chest CT scan and transthoracic echocardiography, which were unremarkable. She was prescribed intravenous diphenhydramine and oral diazepam, 3 days later her complaints completely disappeared with no signs of recurrence.

Belly dancer’s syndrome refers to myoclonic jerk of both hemidiaphragms. The movements are involuntary and result in undulating movements of the abdomen, sometimes also the trunk. The movements resemble a belly dance. Majority of the cases are bilateral, and the left side is targeted. The abdomen is usually painful with dyspnoea as a prominent complain.

Source: BMJ

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Dr. Aiman Shahab is a dentist with a bachelor’s degree from Dow University of Health Sciences. She is an experienced freelance writer with a demonstrated history of working in the health industry. Skilled in general dentistry, she is currently working as an associate dentist at a private dental clinic in Karachi, freelance content writer and as a part time science instructor with Little Medical School. She has also been an ambassador for PDC in the past from the year 2016 – 2018, and her responsibilities included acting as a representative and volunteer for PDC with an intention to make the dental community of Pakistan more connected and to work for benefiting the underprivileged. When she’s not working, you’ll either find her reading or aimlessly walking around for the sake of exploring. Her future plans include getting a master’s degree in maxillofacial and oral surgery, settled in a metropolitan city of North America.


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