Cullen's sign

Cullen's sign is superficial edema and bruising in the subcutaneous fatty tissue around the umbilicus.

Cullen's sign
Cullen's sign

It is named for gynecologist Thomas Stephen Cullen (1869–1953),[1] who first described the sign in ruptured ectopic pregnancy in 1916.[2]

This sign takes 24–48 hours to appear and can predict acute pancreatitis, with mortality rising from 8–10% to 40%. It may be accompanied by Grey Turner's sign[3] (bruising of the flank), which may then be indicative of pancreatic necrosis with retroperitoneal or intra-abdominal bleeding.


Causes include:

Importance of the sign is on a decline since better diagnostic modalities are now available.


  1. synd/1386 at Who Named It?
  2. T.S. Cullen. Embryology, anatomy, and diseases of the umbilicus together with diseases of the urachus. Philadelphia, Saunders, and London, 1916.
  3. Bosmann M, Schreiner O, Galle PR (April 2009). "Coexistence of Cullen's and Grey Turner's signs in acute pancreatitis". Am. J. Med. 122 (4): 333–4. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2008.08.032. PMID 19332225.
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