Cullen sign

Last revised by Dr Jeremy Jones on 18 Sep 2021

Cullen sign refers to superficial edema visible as periumbilical discolouration and is most commonly seen in patients with acute pancreatitis 1-3.

Clinical presentation

Clinically patients with pancreatitis present with epigastric pain that radiates to the umbilical/periumbilical region and then to the whole abdomen. On clinical examination, they may have a tender, tense distended abdomen and, if the Cullen sign is present, brown/blue discolouration of the dermis around the umbilicus 2,3,5

History and etymology

The sign was first described by Thomas Stephen Cullen (1868-1953) a Canadian-American gynecologist who first described the sign in a patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy 7.

See also

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