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Acute abdominal pain has a sudden onset, can persist for several hours or days, and may be caused by a variety of conditions or diseases. This type of abdominal pain is a common physical complaint and prompted more than 7 million emergency department visits last year in the United States. Sometimes abdominal pain stems from constipation or overeating and goes away without medical treatment. In other cases, however, the pain may be a warning sign of something more serious. Accompanying symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or fever along with certain physical indications (see below) suggest abdominal problems that could require surgical treatment. It is this situation that doctors often refer to as an acute abdomen. There are also special and additional concerns when abdominal pain occurs in infants, children, women, and elderly persons.
Zeller JL, Burke AE, Glass RM. Acute Abdominal Pain. JAMA. 2006;296(14):1800. doi:10.1001/jama.296.14.1800
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