Musculoskeletal system

Scaphoid abdomen-Definition & Causes

“Scaphoid abdomen”, have you ever heard of this term. The scaphoid abdomen is nothing but a particular shape of the abdomen. In people having scaphoid shaped abdomen, the abdomen is depressed inside and looks like a concave structure when seen from outside.

Scaphoid abdomen looks sunken and is sucked inside. The scaphoid abdomen is also known as the boat like abdomen, navicular abdomen, carinate abdomen, etc. There are many different causes of the scaphoid abdomen. Let us look at some of the important causes.

Scaphoid abdomen causes:

scaphoid abdomen

The shape or contour of the abdomen depends on many factors ranging from nutritional status to severe life-threatening diseases. Also, the causes of the development of scaphoid contour of the abdomen are different in different age groups. Let us explore all the causes of the scaphoid abdomen.


Having adequate nutrition is absolutely important to maintain perfect body structure, shape and also the functionality of the muscles. Our body needs sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, and proteins to have good muscles and also to maintain metabolic functions of the body.

If you don’t take nutritive diet with adequate proteins needed by your body, your muscles tend to reduce in size. Also, there is a loss of abdominal fat if you are malnourished.

Reduction of muscle size and loss of abdominal fat in malnutrition leads to the development of scaphoid abdomen. Also, there is an overall loss of weight in these people. The arms and legs of people with nutritional deficiencies are very thin.

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These people with malnourishment also suffer from many abnormalities of the cardiovascular system, liver, and also pitting edema of limbs apart from the scaphoid abdomen.


Cancer is also known as carcinoma. There are many different types of cancers affecting our body. Any organ in the body can develop cancer ranging from skin to the heart and brain.

In cancers, the cells of the organs divide without any control and form a tumor-like growth. These cells suck up all the energy from the body and make other cells in the body suffer due to a deficit of energy.

This leads to severe malnutrition and cachexia or wasting. There is a loss of muscle mass, weight loss and also organ impairment in people with cancers.

If you notice any cancer patient with advanced stages of cancer, you will see that he or she looks very lean, has thin legs and arms, and also scaphoid abdomen.

Anorexia nervosa:

In people suffering from Anorexia nervosa, there is an extreme restriction of food intake. These people might also vomit the food they take to lose weight. The weight and BMI or body mass index of people suffering from Anorexia nervosa are very low.

As a result of weight loss and loss of subcutaneous fat, the abdomen of the people suffering from this eating disorder is scaphoid shaped.

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH):

In kids suffering from this type of a hernia, the scaphoid abdomen is seen. Hernia is the protrusion of one organ or body part into the other organ.

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In the congenital diaphragmatic hernia, the contents of the abdominal cavity are protruded into the thoracic cavity.

This hernia is seen from birth and leads to severe respiratory distress apart from the scaphoid abdomen. This is an emergency and needs to be treated urgently.

Duodenal atresia:

The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. It is connected to the stomach on one side and jejunum of the small intestine on the other side.

This condition is seen in kids. In Duodenal atresia, there is a closure of the duodenum and it is not connected to the other part of the intestine.

Whenever a child with this condition eats anything, the food is vomited back and it doesn’t pass into the intestines. This prevents the formation of the gas in the intestines as the food is not passed to it. So, the abdomen appears like a scaphoid abdomen due to the absence of intestinal gas.

Diaphragmatic injuries:

The diaphragm is the separation between the chest and the abdomen. Your diaphragm might get injured due to various reasons like trauma, motor vehicle accidents, etc. When there is any injury to the diaphragm, we can see a scaphoid shaped abdomen.


We need to have an adequate intake of water and good hydration to maintain the health of abdominal muscles. In kids who are dehydrated very severely, we can see sunken shape of the abdomen, which is called the scaphoid abdomen.


Marasmus is a type of protein energy malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is another type of protein-energy malnutrition or PEM disease which occurs in the kids. In kwashiorkor, the belly or abdomen is protruded outside. In Marasmus, there is scaphoid abdomen.

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Cerebral disease:

Nerve supply all the parts of the body including muscles. Whenever we suffer from any nervous disorders, we can see abnormalities in the muscles as well. In kids suffering from cerebral diseases, there is an appearance of the scaphoid abdomen.

High intestinal obstruction:

Intestinal obstruction can occur at any part of the intestine from duodenum to the sigmoid colon. Where there is intestinal obstruction high in the intestines, somewhere in the small intestines like duodenum, the food doesn’t pass into the large intestine. This makes the large bowel empty. This, in turn, leads to the appearance of the scaphoid abdomen.

You, people, have seen all the different causes of the scaphoid abdomen. The scaphoid abdomen is never normal. It is always caused by some disorder or disease. If you notice that your kid or you have scaphoid abdomen, consult your physician immediately for appropriate diagnosis.

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