Acute abdomen is sudden and severe pain in the belly. It can be a sign of a larger problem.
Abdominal Organs, Anterior View
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There are many causes for abdominal pain, such as:
Inflammation in the:
Health problems, such as:
Other problems such as:
- Blockage in the small or large intestine
- Lack of blood flow to the organs in the belly
The above problems raise the risk of a person having abdominal pain.
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:
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
Acute abdomen cannot always be prevented. It has many causes.
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.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 4/30/21