Subcostal nerve injury after laparoscopic lipoma surgery: an unusual culprit for an unusual complication

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Endoscopic surgery has revolutionized the field of minimally invasive surgery. Nerve injury after laparoscopic surgery is presumably rare, with only scarce reports in the literature; however, the use of these techniques for new purposes presents the opportunity for novel complications. The authors report a case of subcostal nerve injury after an anterior laparoscopic approach to a posterior abdominal wall lipoma.

A 62-year-old woman presented with a left abdominal flank bulge (pseudohernia) that developed after laparoscopic posterior flank wall lipoma resection. Imaging demonstrated frank ballooning of the oblique muscles; denervation atrophy and thinning of the external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominis muscles; and thinning of the rectus abdominis muscle. The patient underwent subcostal nerve repair and removal of a foreign plastic material from the laparoscopic procedure. At 8 months, she has regained substantial improvement in abdominal wall strength.

Although endoscopic procedures have resulted in significant reduction in morbidity, “minimally invasive” approaches should not be confused with “low risk” when approaching novel pathology. The subcostal nerve is at risk of injury in posterior abdominal wall surgery, whether laparoscopic or not. With the pseudohernia and abdominal bulge after this surgery, the cosmetic appeal of laparoscopic incisions was definitively undone. Selecting an approach based on the anatomy of adjacent structures may lead to a better functional result.

ABBREVIATIONS EMG = electromyography.
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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Mark A. Mahan: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. mark.mahan@hsc.utah.edu.INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online December 21, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.7.JNS18532.Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.
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