Emergency Surgery for Abdominal Pain

What is Emergency Surgery?

Acute abdomen is defined as a “critical” situation with onset of symptoms of less than 24 hours, with severe abdominal and very severe general symptoms, requiring urgent medical or surgical treatment.

It is a frequent reason for consultation in routine medical practice and its management requires a great deal of experience and judgment, since the most catastrophic of phenomena may be preceded by very subtle symptoms and signs.

Symptoms and signs present in acute abdominal pain

Severe pain in the abdomen


Bloody stools

Persistent nausea and vomiting

Disorientation and confusion in the elderly

Skin with yellowish appearance

Intense tenderness of the abdomen to touch

Swelling of the abdomen

Inability to evacuate or expel gas

Lack of appetite

Leading causes of abdominal pain requiring urgent surgery

Abdominal pain surgery

Emergency Abdominal Surgery is the one that the surgeon is forced to practice immediately, as the most important measure of treatment of the condition that imposes it.

What is abdominal laparoscopy?

A laparoscopy is a procedure used by a physician to look inside the abdomen (belly) and pelvis. It is done with a laparoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a light and a small video camera at one end.

Currently, laparoscopic surgery is both a diagnostic tool and can be used safely for surgical treatment in selected patients with acute abdominal pain, as well as in those in whom there is a high suspicion of an urgent cause and in whom imaging studies are inconclusive.

Dr. Javier Cisneros Lopez is a general surgeon specializing in anorectal pathology surgery in the city of Tijuana, Baja California Mexico with 26 years of experience and more than 7,000 procedures performed. If you have any symptoms or doubts regarding your health, schedule an appointment here to receive medical attention appropriate to your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an acute abdomen?

Acute abdomen is a clinical picture of abdominal pain, presenting abruptly or acutely, often caused by an inflammatory or performative process of an intra-abdominal hollow viscus.

Which diseases are the most common in the surgical abdomen and require urgent surgery?
  • Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix cecal)
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder)
  • Diverticulitis (perforation of large bowel diverticulum).
  • Peptic ulcer perforation, intestinal perforation.
  • Obstructive (occlusion of small intestine or colon) strangulated hernias.
  • hemorrhagic (blunt or sharp force trauma, ectopic pregnancy).
Which specialist treats acute abdomen?

The general surgeon is the surgical specialist who treats this pathology and is an expert in the digestive system. This specialty treats all surgical conditions of the digestive tract: esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and anus, as well as the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

What is the prognosis of a patient with acute abdominal pain?

Acute abdominal pain, if not diagnosed or treated in time, can have a very high percentage of complications and mortality, mainly in elderly, diabetic or chronically ill patients.

A favorable prognosis requires that the patient with abdominal pain be evaluated by a general surgeon and that a series of blood and imaging studies be performed to corroborate the diagnosis and operate as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms and signs of acute surgical abdomen?
  • Sudden onset of severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools or bloody vomit
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Yellowish skin appearance and dark colored urine
  • Excessive tenderness in the abdomen to touch
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Inability to pass gas and/or have a bowel movement.
  • Lack of appetite
How is the diagnosis of acute abdomen made?

The diagnosis is clinical and must be made by a qualified general surgeon, but depending on the clinical suspicion some complementary tests may be necessary such as ultrasound of the abdomen, CT or MRI of the abdomen and pelvis, chest X-ray and blood or urine tests. The surgeon will perform the evaluation of the same and will determine the need for urgent intervention as soon as possible.

What is the treatment of acute abdomen?

The treatment must be surgery, in this pathology can be performed in two ways:

  • Open surgery: used for severe patients and patients who have had previous surgeries in the abdomen or that the laparoscopic approach could not be performed.
  • Laparoscopic surgery: also called minimally invasive, which uses incisions of less than 5 millimeters and is performed by a video camera. It can be used as a method to make diagnosis, to perform surgery or to guide an open directed surgery.

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