April 2014
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April 2014 posts

When you should seek treatment for abdominal pain

As a general surgeon, the majority of my practice is spent evaluating patients with abdominal pain and deciding whether the cause of their pain requires surgical treatment. These patients are only a small fraction of the number of people who seek medical attention for abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is fairly common and something almost all of us have experienced. Usually it is not cause for alarm and resolves on its own after a limited course if we wait and treat symptomatically. We have all had a moment however when we wondered whether this time was more serious, and how would we know if it was?

Every organ in the abdomen and pelvis (including the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall) has nerve endings and can cause pain. While nearly everyone has experienced abdominal pain, it is usually self limited and mild. Think antacids for heartburn symptoms, diet modifications for food intolerances, fluids and time for gastroenteritis, stool softners for constipation. While more severe causes of abdominal pain are rare, it is important they are recognized as they may have more severe consequences to health.

Only 15%-20% of people with abdominal pain require surgical treatment (this number increases with age). The most common reasons for surgery are  ...
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