When to Seek Care for Abdominal Pain

By: Dr. Bret Frey

August 07, 2023

A woman sitting down clutches her stomach with abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is one of the most common complaints that brings individuals to the emergency room. We spoke with emergency physician Bret Frey, MD, to ask about when and where to seek care for abdominal pain.  

Dr. Frey advises that any time you feel something is developing inside your body that is substantially different from what is normal for you, understand that something is wrong. He further explains that warning signs of an acute medical situation include fever, vomiting or a rapid change in function and ability to move due to pain. These symptoms indicate that one needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.  

This evaluation will include the care team conducting an examination and asking a series of questions to determine if additional diagnostics, such as lab work or imaging, are needed. Be prepared to discuss where the pain is and what it feels like, in addition to how long it’s been bothering you and if it’s constant or intermittent. 

While appendicitis often comes to mind when thinking about abdominal pain, Dr. Frey says that this is not the bulk of cases that the Emergency Department sees. In fact, often the pain does not have a specific diagnosis, but our team of board-certified emergency physicians are experienced in assessing and caring for those experiencing the acute symptoms he described.  

“We often don’t come away with an answer about exactly what it is, but we substantially rule out life threats in a very methodical and systematic way,” said Frey. 

The abdomen includes many organs, including the stomach, liver, small and large intestines, gallbladder and pancreas. In addition, pain stemming from your chest, pelvis or back may be felt in the abdominal area. 

If you are experiencing abdominal issues that are persistent but not an emergency, talk to your primary care doctor about what you are experiencing, and be prepared to review the history of this pain, medications, allergies and diet. He or she will be a good partner to review conditions such as gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, inflammation or menstrual and ovulation pain. Drinking plenty of water is always an important part of supporting your health.  

Trauma & Emergency Care

Patient being rushed into the emergency room

Trauma & Emergency Care

Renown Health is home to three 24/7 Emergency Rooms that provide the highest level of emergency and trauma care in the region.
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