Gastrointestinal emergencies

Gastrointestinal emergencies are acute abdominal conditions characterised by pain in the abdomen, which began in the last seven days (not longer ago) and which is severe enough to affect the daily life and activities of the individual. A condition is described as acute if it begins suddenly and gets worse over a short period of time. An acute emergency is one that rapidly becomes life-threatening.

If abdominal pain has lasted for more than seven days it is called chronic abdominal pain and the affected person should be referred as soon as possible.

Can you suggest a possible cause of chronic abdominal pain?

Show answer

It may be due to a cancer somewhere in the abdomen, e.g. in the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, pancreas or reproductive organs.

The two most common causes of gastrointestinal emergencies are appendicitis and intestinal obstruction, described below. Note that they have overlapping symptoms and signs, making their distinction difficult. In addition, the symptoms are not always typical in very old or very young people and this uncertainty often causes delay in diagnosis. Delay in starting treatment contributes to the more severe effects of these conditions in older or younger age groups, and their bodies have more limited ability to repair afterwards.

Last modified: Tuesday, 15 July 2014, 9:54 PM