Acute Abdomen

While about 10% of abdominal pain presentations to the ED are surgical, there are a variety of abdominal pain presentations that have diagnoses outside the abdomen – so one needs to be thinking outside the box -

Acute Abdomen

image by: Robystarm

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The Acute Abdomen

The ‘acute abdomen’ is defined as a sudden onset of severe abdominal pain developing over a short time period. It has a large number of possible causes and so a structured approach is required.

The initial assessment should attempt to determine if the patient has an acute surgical problem that requires immediate and prompt surgical intervention, or urgent medical therapy.

The first decision when you first see any patient is “Are they critically unwell?”. A 10-second assessment of their clinical state can be made by a general look (the “end-of-bed-o-gram”) and their observations.

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 The Acute Abdomen

Wide array of pathologies that cause an acute abdomen, important to differentiate the urgent from non-urgent.

EM Board Bombs

Acute abdomen podcasts


Abdominal pain provides unique diagnostic and pain management challenges, as the severity of illness may be unrelated to the degree of pain.

Oxford Medicine Online

The term ‘acute abdomen’ is commonly used to describe abdominal pain of recent onset requiring urgent surgical assessment.


An acute abdomen is a condition that demands urgent attention and treatment. The acute abdomen may be caused by an infection, inflammation, vascular occlusion, or obstruction.


Acute abdomen refers to a sudden, severe pain in the abdomen that is less than 24 hours in duration. It is in many cases an emergency condition requiring urgent and specific diagnosis, and the treatment usually involves surgery.

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