Acute abdomen is sudden and severe pain in the belly. It can be a sign of a larger problem.
|Abdominal Organs, Anterior View|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
There are many causes for abdominal pain, such as:
Inflammation in the:
Health problems, such as:
- An infection or abscess
- Peptic ulcer
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Kidney stones
- Ruptured or leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm
Other problems such as:
- Blockage in the small or large intestine
- Lack of blood flow to the organs in the belly
- Menstrual cramps
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease—inflammation around the organs in the pelvis because of an infection
- Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- Intussusception—the intestines telescope causing a block
- Volvulus—a twisting of the large intestine around itself
- Hirschsprung disease
The symptoms a person has will depend on the cause. Common ones are:
- Severe pain, swelling, or tenderness in the upper, middle, or lower part of the belly
- Muscles in the belly that contract without control or are very tense
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked about your pain. A physical exam will be done. This will involve checking the pelvis and rectum.
Other tests may be:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Exploratory laparotomy—surgery to look for problems inside the belly
Sometimes emergency treatment is needed.
The goal of treatment is to ease pain and treat what is causing it. Choices are:
- Diet or lifestyle changes
- Medicines, such as pain relievers
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://familydoctor.org
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology https://www.cag-acg.org
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation http://www.cdhf.ca
Abdominal pain (stomach pain), short-term. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/symptom/abdominal-pain-stomach-pain-short-term. Accessed October 27, 2020.
Acute abdominal pain in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/acute-abdominal-pain-in-adolescents-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed October 27, 2020.
Cartwright S, Knudson M. Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(7):452-459.
Reust CE, Williams A. Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Am Fam Physician. 2016 May 15;93(10):830-836.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
- Review Date: 09/2020