Imaging abdominal emergencies

Author(s): Dr Emily A Aherne, Dr David P M Mitchell, Dr Matthew Crockett, Dr Peter J MacMahon

Hospital: Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

Reference: RAD Magazine, 41, 486, 24-26


Every day in the emergency setting, abdominal pain continues to pose a significant diagnostic challenge for clinicians. It accounts for approximately 5-6% of all emergency department (ED) attendances. The ‘acute abdomen’ is a term traditionally used to refer to patients who complain of severe abdominal pain and have a peritonitic, tense abdomen on examination. There are a large number of diverse possible causes of an acute abdomen and clinical examination can often be misleading. Emergent, life-threatening causes of an acute abdomen include rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute bowel obstruction, bowel ischaemia, gastrointestinal perforation, ectopic pregnancy and abdominal trauma. In emergencies, when critical decisions need to be made quickly, imaging is often relied upon to provide rapid, accurate assessment. However, it is not without risk to the patient and it is imperative that patients are clinically stabilised prior to any radiologic assessment.

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