Acute abdomen is any serious acute (sudden; less than
24 hours in duration) condition affecting the inside of
the abdomen (belly) accompanied by pain, sensitivity to
touch, and rigid muscles and for which emergency
surgery must be considered. The cause is initially
unclear and requires an emergency medical workup to
find a diagnosis and initiate treatment. This almost
always involves an x-ray and/or CT scan of the
abdomen to get images of that area.
CT scanning is an advanced imaging technique that uses x-rays and computer
technology to produces clear and detailed picture of the body area being examined.
These imaging techniques help determine if emergency surgery is needed.
Blood tests are also usually ordered, which can find characteristic finding of certain
causes of acute abdomen, such as a high neutrophil level in appendicitis. A neutrophil is
a type of mature (developed) white blood cell that is present in the blood. White blood
cells help protect the body against diseases and fight infections.
Appendicitis is inflammation of the vermiform appendix. The vermiform appendix is a
wormlike structure that extends from the first part of the large intestine.
Acute abdomen in also known as surgical abdomen.
Sometimes, acute abdomen is used interchangeably with
peritonitis. However, peritonitis is a more specific term referring to
inflammation of the peritoneum (which can cause acute abdomen).
The peritoneum is the lining of the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis can
be caused by appendicitis and pancreatitis (inflammation of the
pancreas). The pancreas is a long organ in the back of the belly
that makes insulin (a substance in the body which helps absorb
glucose, a type of sugar).
Acute abdomen comes from the Latin word "acutus" meaning
"sharp" and the Latin word “abdomen” meaning “belly.” Put the
words together and you have “sharp belly.”