European Radiology

, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 2136–2150 | Cite as

Nontraumatic abdominal emergencies: acute abdominal pain: diagnostic strategies

  • B. Marincek
Emergency Radiology


Common causes of acute abdominal pain include appendicitis, cholecystitis, bowel obstruction, urinary colic, perforated peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, and nonspecific, nonsurgical abdominal pain. The topographic classification of acute abdominal pain (pain in one of the four abdominal quadrants, diffuse abdominal pain, flank or epigastric pain) facilitates the choice of the imaging technique. The initial radiological evaluation often consists of plain abdominal radiography, despite significant diagnostic limitations. The traditional indications for plain films – bowel obstruction, pneumoperitoneum, and the search of ureteral calculi – are questioned by helical computed tomography (CT). Although ultrasonography (US) is in many centers the modality of choice for imaging the gallbladder and the pelvis in children and women of reproductive age, CT is considered to be one of the most valued tools for triaging patients with acute abdominal pain. CT is particularly beneficial in patients with marked obesity, unclear US findings, bowel obstruction, and multiple lesions. The introduction of multidetector row CT (MDCT) has further enhanced the utility of CT in imaging patients with acute abdominal pain.

Acute abdomen Imaging strategy Ultrasonography Computed tomography 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Marincek
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Diagnostic Radiology, University Hospital Zurich, Rämistrasse 100, 8091 Zurich, SwitzerlandSwitzerland

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