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Acute Abdominal Pain

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Acute Abdominal Pain

(Severe Stomach Ache; Abdominal Cramps)


Acute abdomen is sudden and severe pain in the belly. It can be a sign of a larger problem.

Abdominal Organs, Anterior View

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There are many causes for abdominal pain, such as:

Inflammation in the:

Health problems, such as:

Other problems such as:

  • Blockage in the small or large intestine
  • Lack of blood flow to the organs in the belly

In women:

In babies:

Risk Factors

The above problems raise a person's risk of having abdominal pain.


The symptoms a person has will depend on the cause. Common ones are:

  • Severe pain, swelling, or tenderness in the upper, middle, or lower part of the belly
  • Muscles in the belly that contract without control or are very tense
  • Fever


The doctor will ask about symptoms, pain, and past health. A physical exam will be done. This will involve checking the pelvis and rectum.

Other tests may include:


Sometimes emergency treatment is needed.

The goal of treatment is to ease pain and treat what is causing it. Options may be:

  • Diet or lifestyle changes
  • Medicines, such as pain relievers
  • Surgery


Acute abdomen cannot always be prevented. It has many causes.





  • Abdominal pain (stomach pain), short-term. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
  • Acute abdominal pain in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Cartwright S, Knudson M. Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(7):452-459.
  • Raymond M, Marsicovetere P, et al. Diagnosing and managing acute abdominal pain in children. JAAPA. 2022;35(1):16-20.
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.