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March 26, 2016
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1 Introduction
stomach aches



Abdominal pain (or stomach ache ) can be one of the symptoms associated with transient disorders or serious disease. Making a definitive diagnosis of the cause of abdominal pain can be difficult, because many diseases can result in this symptom. Abdominal pain is a common problem. Most frequently the cause is benign and/or self-limited, but more serious causes may require urgent intervention.

  • Gastrointestinal

  • *Inflammatory: gastroenteritis, appendicitis, gastritis, esophagitis, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis

  • *Obstruction: hernia, intussusception, volvulus, post-surgical adhesions, tumours, superior mesenteric artery syndrome, severe constipation, hemorrhoids

  • *Vascular: embolism, thrombosis, hemorrhage, sickle cell disease, abdominal angina, blood vessel compression (such as celiac artery compression syndrome), Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

  • * digestive: peptic ulcer, lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, food allergies

  • Bile system

  • *Inflammatory: cholecystitis, cholangitis

  • *Obstruction: cholelithiasis, tumours

  • Liver

  • *Inflammatory: hepatitis, liver abscess

  • Pancreatic

  • *Inflammatory: pancreatitis

  • Renal and urological

  • *Inflammation: pyelonephritis, bladder infection

  • *Obstruction: kidney stones , urolithiasis, Urinary retention, tumours

  • *Vascular: left renal vein entrapment

  • Gynecological or obstetric

  • *Inflammatory: pelvic inflammatory disease

  • *Mechanical: ovarian torsion

  • *Pregnancy: ruptured ectopic pregnancy, threatened abortion

  • Abdominal wall

  • *muscle strain or trauma

  • *muscular infection

  • * neurogenic pain: herpes zoster, radiculitis in Lyme disease, abdominal cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome (ACNES), tabes dorsalis

  • Referred pain

  • *from the thorax: pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, ischemic heart disease, pericarditis

  • *from the spine : radiculitis

  • Metabolic disturbance

  • * uremia, diabetic ketoacidosis, porphyria, C1-esterase inhibitor deficiency, adrenal insufficiency, lead poisoning, black widow spider bite, narcotic withdrawal

  • Blood vessels

  • * aortic dissection, abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Immune system

  • * sarcoidosis

  • * familial Mediterranean fever

  • Idiopathic

  • * irritable bowel syndrome (affecting up to 20% of the population, IBS is the most common cause of recurrent, intermittent abdominal pain)

Acute abdominal pain

Acute abdomen can be defined as severe, persistent abdominal pain of sudden onset that is likely to require surgical intervention to treat its cause. The pain may frequently be associated with nausea and vomiting, abdominal distention, fever and signs of shock . One of the most common conditions associated with acute abdominal pain is acute appendicitis.

Selected causes of acute abdomen

  • Traumatic : blunt or perforating trauma to the stomach, bowel, spleen, liver, or kidney

  • Inflammatory :

  • * Infections such as appendicitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, pyelonephritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, hepatitis, mesenteric adenitis, or a subdiaphragmatic abscess

  • * Perforation of a peptic ulcer, a diverticulum , or the caecum

  • * Complications of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis

  • Mechanical :

  • * Small bowel obstruction secondary to adhesions caused by previous surgeries, intussusception, hernias, benign or malignant neoplasm s

  • * Large bowel obstruction caused by colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, volvulus, fecal impaction or hernia

  • Vascular : occlusive intestinal ischemia , usually caused by thromboembolism of the superior mesenteric artery

Recurrent abdominal pain in children and adolescents

Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) occurs in 5???15% of children 6???19 years old. In a community-based study of middle and high school students, 13???17% had weekly abdominal pain. Using criteria for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 14% of high school students and 6% of middle school students fit the criteria for adult IBS. As with other difficult to diagnose chronic medical problems, patients with RAP account for a very large number of office visits and medical resources in proportion to their actual numbers. Most patients with RAP benefit from reassurance and techniques to manage anxiety and stress, which are frequently associated with episodes.

When a physician assesses a patient to determine the etiology and subsequent treatment for abdominal pain the patient's history of the presenting complaint and physical examination should derive a diagnosis in over 90% of cases.

It is important also for a physician to remember that abdominal pain can be caused by problems outside the abdomen, especially heart attacks and pneumonias which can occasionally present as abdominal pain.

Investigations that would aid diagnosis include

  • Blood tests including full blood count, electrolytes, urea, creatinine, liver function tests, pregnancy test and lipase.

  • Urinalysis

  • Imaging including erect chest X-ray and plain films of the abdomen

  • An electrocardiograph to rule out a heart attack which can occasionally present as abdominal pain

If diagnosis remains unclear after history, examination and basic investigations as above then more advanced investigations may reveal a diagnosis. These as such would include

  • Computed Tomography of the abdomen/pelvis

  • Abdominal or pelvic ultrasound

  • Endoscopy and colonoscopy (not used for diagnosing acute pain)

  • Abdominal examination

  • Apley J, Naish N: Recurrent abdominal pains: A field survey of 1,000 school children. Arch Dis Child 1958;33:165 - 170.

  • Chronic Pelvic Pain and Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Female Adolescents

  • Boyle JT, Hamel-Lambert J: Biopsychosocial issues in functional abdominal pain. Pediatr Ann 2001;30:1.

  • Stomach ache or abdominal pain can be misdiagnosed.Consult a Gastroenterologist rather than ER doctor if Pain persists more than a day.

  • Stomach Pain and Conditions.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "stomach aches".

Last Modified:   2010-11-25

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