Emergency Management of Acute Abdomen in Children
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Acute abdomen can be defined as a medical emergency in which there is sudden and severe pain in abdomen with accompanying signs and symptoms that focus on an abdominal involvement. It accounts for about 8 % of all children attending the emergency department. The goal of emergency management is to identify and treat any life-threatening medical or surgical disease condition and relief from pain. In mild cases often the cause is gastritis or gastroenteritis, colic, constipation, pharyngo-tonsilitis, viral syndromes or acute febrile illnesses. The common surgical causes are malrotation and Volvulus (in early infancy), intussusception, acute appendicitis, and typhoid and ischemic enteritis with perforation. Lower lobe pneumonia, diabetic ketoacidosis and acute porphyria should be considered in patients with moderate-severe pain with little localizing findings in abdomen. The approach to management in ED should include, in order of priority, a rapid cardiopulmonary assessment to ensure hemodynamic stability, focused history and examination, surgical consult and radiologic examination to exclude life threatening surgical conditions, pain relief and specific diagnosis. In a sick patient the initial steps include rapid IV access and normal saline 20 ml/kg (in the presence of shock/hypovolemia), adequate analgesia, nothing per oral/IV fluids, Ryle’s tube aspiration and surgical consultation. An ultrasound abdomen is the first investigation in almost all cases with moderate and severe pain with localizing abdominal findings. In patients with significant abdominal trauma or features of pancreatitis, a Contrast enhanced computerized tomography (CECT) abdomen will be a better initial modality. Continuous monitoring and repeated physical examinations should be done in all cases. Specific management varies according to the specific etiology.
KeywordsAcute abdomen Acute appendicitis Children Infantile colic Intussusception
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