Severe Abdominal Pain



There are many causes for abdominal pain, such as:

Inflammation in the:

  • Appendix
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas

Health problems, such as:

  • An infection or abscess
  • Diarrhea
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney stones
  • Ruptured or leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Cancer

Other problems such as:

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

In women:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease—inflammation around the organs in the pelvis because of an infection
  • Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy

In babies:

  • Intussusception—one part of the intestines slides next to the other, causing a block
  • Volvulus—a twisting of the large intestine around itself
  • Hirschsprung disease

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:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Imaging tests, such as:
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • Exploratory laparotomy—surgery to look for problems inside the belly



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.

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.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.