Abdominal pain is a common symptom, which can be associated with many different health conditions and it is one of the most common reasons for being referred to a gastrointestinal specialist. Abdominal pain can be either acute (short-term pain that comes on suddenly) or chronic (long-term).
If abdominal pain is acute, urgent investigations are usually carried out at an Accident and Emergency department and tests may include blood tests, X-rays, scans and endoscopy. The treatment pathway will then be defined by the results of the test and the diagnosis.
Chronic abdominal pain is a common reason for seeing a specialist and if you experience chronic abdominal pain you may be advised to have tests, which may include blood tests, ultrasound scans, a CT scan or an MRI scan. If there has been a change in bowel habit then a colonoscopy may be carried out and if doctors suspect that pain is associated with the upper gastrointestinal tract then a gastroscopy may be ordered.
Abdominal pain may be associated with other symptoms caused by gastrointestinal problems; for example, distension may be associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Abdominal distension may also be associated with problems with the intestines and tests including a CT scan or ultrasound scan may be used to investigate distension.