What is Abdominal Pain?
Abdominal pain is any pain or discomfort that occurs anywhere between your chest and groin. It is rarely caused by a serious medical problem, but can be a sign of a serious illness. Abdominal pain is a symptom of various conditions, such as indigestion, constipation, food poisoning, food allergies, gallstones, inflammation, appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, peptic ulcer, and cancer. Abdominal pain can also be caused by other problems such as heart attack, muscle strain, menstrual cramps, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections.
Diagnosis of Abdominal Pain
To determine the cause of your abdominal pain, your doctor will ask you several questions about the pain you are experiencing and perform a thorough physical examination.
Certain tests may be ordered and could assist in determining the diagnosis and may include:
- Laboratory tests: Laboratory tests include blood tests, enzyme tests, and urine and stool tests. A raised white blood cell count may indicate infection. Blood in the urine may suggest the patient may have a kidney stone. Elevated levels of the liver enzyme may indicate a gallstone attack. Pancreatitis is most commonly caused by increased levels of amylase and lipase (pancreas enzymes).
- X-rays of the abdomen: Plain X-rays of the abdomen also called a KUB (kidneys, ureters, and bladder) x-ray can help find the cause of many abdominal problems such as kidney stones, intestinal blockage, a hole or perforation in the intestine, and buildup of fluid in the abdomen.
- Radiographic studies: Radiographic studies such as an ultrasound of the abdomen, CT scan, MRI scan and Barium X-rays of upper gastrointestinal may be useful in finding some causes of abdominal pain. Capsule endoscopy, a procedure that uses a swallowed tiny camera to take pictures of your small bowel may also be helpful in diagnosing Crohn's disease, small bowel tumors, and bleeding lesions not seen on X-rays or CT scans.
- Endoscopic procedures:
- Upper endoscopy: An upper endoscopy, often referred to as EGD or esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy, is a procedure in which a long thin flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Endoscopy may be done to help identify inflammation of stomach (gastritis), ulcers, and tumors.
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a procedure in which the inside of the large intestine (colon) and rectum is examined using an instrument called a colonoscope (flexible tube with a camera and a light at its end). It is used to diagnose infectious colitis, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An EUS may be able to diagnose pancreatic cancer or gallstones undetected by standard ultrasound or CT or MRI scans. An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) combines endoscopy and ultrasound to obtain images of the digestive tract and the surrounding organs.
- Balloon enteroscopy: A balloon endoscopy is a technique in which balloons attached to the endoscope can be inflated to look for sources of abdominal pain or bleeding and can be biopsied, and treated.
Sometimes, laparoscopy examination of the abdominal cavity by means of the laparoscope may be required for diagnosis of abdominal pain.