Wunderlich Syndrome: Comprehensive Review of Diagnosis and Management (Jun, 10.1148/rg.239007, 2023)

Jignesh N. Shah,Darshan Gandhi,Srinivasa R. Prasad, Preet K. Sandhu, Hiral Banker, Ryan Molina, Muhammad Salman Khan,Tushar Garg,Venkata S. Katabathina


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Wunderlich syndrome (WS), which was named after Carl Wunderlich, is a rare clinical syndrome characterized by an acute onset of spontaneous renal hemorrhage into the subcapsular, perirenal, and/or pararenal spaces, without a history of antecedent trauma. Patients may present with a multitude of symptoms ranging from nonspecific flank or abdominal pain to serious manifestations such as hypovolemic shock. The classic symptom complex of flank pain, a flank mass, and hypovolemic shock referred to as the Lenk triad is seen in a small subset of patients. Renal neoplasms such as angiomyolipomas and clear cell renal cell carcinomas that display an increased proclivity for hemorrhage and rupture contribute to approximately 60%-65% of all cases of WS. A plethora of renal vascular diseases (aneurysms or pseudoaneurysms, arteriovenous malformations or fistulae, renal vein thrombosis, and vasculitis syndromes) account for 20%-30% of cases of WS. Rare causes of WS include renal infections, cystic diseases, calculi, kidney failure, and coagulation disorders. Cross-sectional imaging modalities, particularly multiphasic CT or MRI, are integral to the detection, localization, and characterization of the underlying causes and facilitate optimal management. However, large-volume hemorrhage at patient presentation may obscure underlying causes, particularly neoplasms. If the initial CT or MRI examination shows no contributary causes, a dedicated CT or MRI follow-up study may be warranted to establish the cause of WS. Renal arterial embolization is a useful, minimally invasive, therapeutic option in patients who present with acute or life-threatening hemorrhage and can help avoid emergency radical surgery. Accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of WS is critical for optimal patient treatment in emergency and nonemergency clinical settings. ©RSNA, 2023 Quiz questions for this article are available through the Online Learning Center.
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