Diagnostic for Abdominal Pain

What is abdominal pain? What does it indicate?

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.

What are the common causes of abdominal pain?

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. It can also be caused by other problems such as heart attack, muscle strain, menstrual cramps, pneumonia and urinary tract infections.

What are the diagnostic tests for abdominal pain?

Your doctor will review your symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination to determine the cause of your abdominal pain.

Certain tests may be ordered to confirm on the diagnosis, such as:

  • 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 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 build-up 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 the upper gastro-intestine may be useful in detecting some causes of abdominal pain. Capsule endoscopy, a procedure that requires you to swallow a tiny camera in the form of a capsule, takes pictures of your small bowel, and helps diagnose Crohn's disease, small bowel tumours and bleeding lesions not detected on X-rays or CT scans.

Apart from these, a more direct view of the problem can be made through various endoscopic procedures that use different types of scopes. Sometimes, laparoscopic examination of the abdominal cavity may be required to diagnose abdominal pain.