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Emergency evaluation of the child with acute abdominal pain

Mark I Neuman, MD, MPH
Richard M Ruddy, MD
Section Editors
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Jan E Drutz, MD
Melvin B Heyman, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


The emergent evaluation of children with acute abdominal pain, including a brief description of life-threatening and common causes, will be discussed here.

The evaluation and management of children with chronic abdominal pain is reviewed separately. (See "Chronic abdominal pain in children and adolescents: Approach to the evaluation" and "Functional abdominal pain in children and adolescents: Management in primary care".)


Among children, abdominal pain is a frequent, nonspecific symptom that is typically associated with self-limited conditions such as gastroenteritis, constipation, and viral illnesses. The challenge for the clinician is to identify patients with abdominal pain who may have the following:

Serious, potentially life-threatening conditions, such as an acute abdomen from appendicitis or bowel obstruction (as can occur from volvulus, intussusception, or adhesions); acute manifestations of inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, hepatitis or intra-abdominal mass.

Extra-abdominal infections that require specific treatment (such as streptococcal pharyngitis, urinary tract infection, or pneumonia)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 09, 2017.
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