Abdominal Pain (cont.)

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Associated signs and symptoms of abdominal pain

  • The presence of fever suggests inflammation or infection.
  • Diarrhea or rectal bleeding suggests an intestinal cause of the pain.
  • The presence of fever and diarrhea suggest inflammation of the intestines that may be infectious or non-infectious.

Physical examination

Examining the patient will provide the doctor with additional clues to the cause of abdominal pain. The doctor will determine:

  1. The presence of sounds coming from the intestines that occur when there is obstruction of the intestines,
  2. The presence of signs of inflammation (by special maneuvers during the examination),
  3. The location of any tenderness
  4. The presence of a mass within the abdomen that suggests a tumor, enlarged organ, or abscess (a collection of infected pus)
  5. The presence of blood in the stool that may signify an intestinal problem such as an ulcer, colon cancer, colitis, or ischemia.

For example:

  • Finding tenderness and signs of inflammation in the left lower abdomen often means that diverticulitis is present, while finding a tender (inflamed) mass in the same area may mean that the inflammation has progressed and that an abscess has formed.
  • Finding tenderness and signs of inflammation in the right lower abdomen often means that appendicitis is present, while finding a tender mass in the same area may mean that appendiceal inflammation has progressed and that an abscess has formed.
  • Inflammation in the right lower abdomen, with or without a mass, also may be found in Crohn's disease. (Crohn's disease most commonly affects the last part of the small intestine, usually located in the right lower abdomen.)
  • A mass without signs of inflammation may mean that a cancer is present.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/1/2014

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