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Volume 27 Number 1

The Acute Abdomen—a Rapid Review:

By Frank Hubbell, DO


Abdominal pain can be one of the most difficult disorders to pin down and make an accurate diagnosis. We have done extensive articles in the past regarding the acute abdomen, but we felt it was time to do a condensed review of the topic.


There are approximately 2000 medical conditions that can cause abdominal pain. The intention of this article is to do a quick review of a systematic way to enable you to sort out the myriad of problems that can cause an acute abdomen, how to determine the severity of the problem, and finally, how to treat the problem.




Etiologies of Abdominal Pain:

What are the various underlying causes of abdominal pain?

Constipation – by far the most common cause of abdominal pain and discomfort

Food Poisoning – also very common, associated with vomiting and diarrhea

Infection – peritonitis from an acute appendicitis or cholecystitis (infected gallbladder)

Bleeding or Perforations – a bleeding ulcer or diverticulitis

Ruptures – acute aortic aneurysm, ruptured appendix, or gallbladder

Obstructions – gallstones, kidney stones, or intestinal blockage

Gynecological – menstrual cramps or ectopic pregnancy

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