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Module: Principles of Surgical Practice

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A plain guide to the Acute Abdomen

Author(s):

Peter Devitt
Consultant Surgeon

and
Chair, MCQ Panel of Examiners
Australian Medical Council

Overview:

The term 'Acute Abdomen' is most often applied to the clinical dynamic of a patient seen in an emergency department with abdominal pain. The issues more often revolve around initial management options rather than obtaining a precise diagnosis.  An important consideration in the management is whether or not urgent surgical intervention is required to stabilise or save the patient.  This decision is usually based on clinical acumen.


Having said that, with today's technology and the desire to be able to provide the answer to an anxious relative's question of 'what does the X-ray show?' - many of these patients get pushed through the CT scanner without much apparent thought given to the overall picture. We will start with an extreme example...


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