Imaging the acute abdomen

Author(s): Dr James Chambers, Dr Beth Hankinson

Hospital: Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust

Reference: RAD Magazine, 45, 530, 22-24


Computed tomography (CT) is an invaluable tool to assess the acute abdomen in the hospital setting. This condition encompasses causes of new-onset abdominal pain, often requiring urgent assessment by the surgical team. It is important to remember that sick patients may require an operation without CT assessment but that team-working between the clinician and radiologist can triage surgical management, aid operative planning and prevent unnecessary or inappropriate surgery.

This article reviews important causes of the acute abdomen diagnosed on CT and provides practical tips on scan protocol, interpretation and what the radiographer and radiologist can do to ensure patients receive the best care in this setting. We will cover four conditions: gastrointestinal (GI) perforation, bowel ischaemia, bowel obstruction and abdominal trauma.

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