Acute abdomen is the medical term used for pain in the abdomen that usually comes on suddenly and is so severe that a person may seek emergency treatment. Acute abdominal pain can signal a variety of more serious conditions, some of which require immediate medical care and/or surgery.
Abdominal Organs, Anterior View
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There are a number of possible causes of acute abdomen. These may include:
The symptoms of acute abdomen have a variety of causes. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
You will be asked for details about your pain, such as the exact location and duration. You will also be asked about any additional symptoms you may be having, such as bowel or urinary symptoms. A medical history will be taken. You will be asked about any drugs or medications you’ve taken. A physical exam will be done, including rectal and pelvic examinations.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
Surgery may be done to visually examine the abdomen.
You may be given pain relievers. However, many doctors may delay prescribing pain relievers, since details of the pain can help find its cause. Do not take any medication, and do not eat or drink until you have spoken with your doctor.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Depending on the underlying condition causing your acute abdomen, treatment options may include:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Abdominal pain, short-term. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/abdominal-pain-short-term.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Cartwright S, Knudson M. Evaluation of Acute Abdominal Pain in Adults. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 1;77(7):971-978. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/0401/p971.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Leung A, Sigalet D. Acute abdominal pain in children. Am Fam Physician. 2003 June 1;67(11):2321-2327. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20030601/2321.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Zeller JL. Acute abdominal pain. JAMA. 296(14):1800. Available at: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/296/14/1800. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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