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Acute Abdominal Pain

By Norton J. Greenberger, MD

Abdominal pain is common and often minor. Severe abdominal pain that comes on quickly, however, almost always indicates a significant problem. The pain may be the only sign of the need for surgery and must be attended to swiftly. Abdominal pain is of particular concern in people who are very young or very old and those who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or are taking drugs that suppress the immune system. Older adults may have less abdominal pain than younger adults with a similar disorder, and, even if the condition is serious, the pain may develop more gradually. Abdominal pain also affects children, including newborns and infants—who cannot communicate the reason for their distress.

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