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April 4, 1980

The Acute Abdomen for the Man on the Spot

Author Affiliations

University of Illinois Medical Center Chicago

JAMA. 1980;243(13):1372. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300390056032

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The "man on the spot" for whom this pithy little book is intended is the house officer facing the patient with a possible acute abdomen. Angell begins by explaining his intent to warn, console, and advise the inexperienced surgeon responsible for management decisions often at times when backup support is minimal. The author describes common behavior patterns of both patients and house officers in an emergency setting. A few apt examples, and he has gained the reader's attention with his light-hearted spoof of how pomposity and ritual often belie the house officer's anxiety, fatigue, and lack of experience. There follows a clear and interesting series of statements that can be quickly consulted for advice on many of the problems encountered in caring for the patient with an acute abdomen.

The book deals with medical illnesses that resemble the acute abdomen; the diagnosis of free fluid in the peritoneal cavity, perforated