Understanding New and Severe Abdominal Pain

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Welcome to our guide, Understanding New and Severe Abdominal Pain.

New and severe abdominal pain always needs to be closely evaluated by a doctor. It is frequently a sign of serious illness. This guide was not designed to substitute for office-based care.

If you are having new and severe abdominal pain, this pain may be frightening to you because of its mystery -- the abdomen contains many important organs that could be the source of your pain. It may seem like a daunting task for a doctor to diagnose the source of your symptom; in fact, there are more than a hundred medical conditions that commonly result in abdominal pain.

Despite the long list of possible causes for abdominal pain, your doctor will be likely be able to narrow down the possibilities to a short list after initial evaluation. Your experience may be less frightening to you if you understand the way that doctors begin to make sense of your symptom, and the reasons for ordering certain tests.

The purpose of this guide is to help you to understand a common way that doctors think through abdominal pain. This guide may also enable you to provide a more helpful medical history during your doctor's evaluation.

This guide was intended for people with new abdominal pain -- pain that has been present for less than two weeks. If your pain has been present for longer or is recurring from previous episodes, please visit our Guide for Recurring Abdominal Pain.

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Medical Reviewer: LeWine, Howard MD Last Annual Review Date: 2006-08-02T00:00:00-06:00

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