ABDOMEN
ABDOMINAL SWELLING
A
A
abdomen
The region of the body be-
tween the chest and the pelvis. The
abdominal cavity is bounded by the ribs
and diaphragm above, and by the pelvis
below, with the spine and abdominal
muscles forming the back, side, and
front walls. It contains the liver, stom-
ach, intestines, spleen, pancreas, and
kidneys. In the lower abdomen, enclosed
by the pelvis, are the bladder, rectum,
and, in women, the uterus and ovaries.
ABDOMEN
Area of
abdomen
Small
intestine
Rectum
Large
intestine
abdomen, acute
Persistent, severe ab-
dominal pain of sudden onset, usually
associated with spasm of the abdomi-
nal muscles, vomiting, and fever.
The most common cause of an acute
abdomen is
peritonitis.
Other causes
include
appendicitis
, abdominal injury,
perforation of an internal organ due to
disorders such as
peptic ulcer
or
diver-
ticular disease
. Acute abdominal pain
commonly begins as a vague pain in the
centre but then becomes localized.
An acute abdomen requires urgent
medical investigation that may involve
a
laparoscopy
or a
laparotomy.
Treat-
ment depends on the underlying cause.
abdominal pain
Discomfort in the ab-
domen. Mild abdominal pain is common
and is often due to excessive alcohol
intake, eating unwisely, or an attack of
diarrhoea
. Pain in the lower abdomen
is common during menstruation but is
occasionally due to a gynaecological
disorder such as
endometriosis
.
Cystitis
is a common cause of pain or discom-
fort in the abdomen. Bladder distension
as a result of urinary obstruction may
also cause abdominal pain.
Abdominal colic is pain that occurs
every few minutes as one of the internal
organs goes into muscular spasm in an
attempt to overcome an obstruction
such as a stone or an area of inflamma-
tion. The attacks of colic may become
more severe and may be associated
with vomiting (see
abdomen, acute).
Peptic ulcer
often produces recurrent
gnawing pain. Other possible causes of
abdominal pain are infection, such as
pyelonephritis
, and
ischaemia
(lack of
blood supply), as occurs when a
volvu-
lus
(twisting of the intestine) obstructs
blood vessels. Tumours affecting an
abdominal organ can cause pain. Abdo-
minal pain can also result from anxiety.
For mild pain, a wrapped hot-water
bottle is often effective. Pain due to
peptic ulcer can be temporarily relieved
by food or by taking
antacid drugs.
Abdominal pain that is not relieved by
vomiting, persists for more than 6 hours,
or is associated with sweating or faint-
ing requires urgent medical attention.
Urgent attention is also necessary if
pain is accompanied by persistent vom-
iting, vomiting of blood, or passing of
bloodstained or black faeces. Unex-
plained weight loss or changes in bowel
habits should always be investigated.
Investigation of abdominal pain may
include the use of imaging tests such as
ultrasound scanning
, and endoscopic
examination in the form of
gastroscopy
,
colonoscopy
, or
laparoscopy
.
abdominal swelling
Enlargement of
the abdomen. Abdominal swelling is a
natural result of
obesity
and growth of
the uterus during pregnancy. Wind in the
stomach or intestine may cause uncom-
fortable,
bloating distension
of the
abdomen. Some women experience ab-
dominal distension due to temporary
water retention just before menstrua-
tion. Other causes may be more serious.
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