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Point tenderness - abdomen
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Point tenderness - abdomen

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Abdominal tenderness

Abdominal point tenderness is the pain you feel when pressure is placed over a certain part of the belly area (abdomen).

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Considerations

    The abdomen is an area of the body a doctor can easily examine by touch. The health care provider can feel growths and organs in the belly area and find where you feel pain.

    Abdominal tenderness can be mild to severe. "Rebound" tenderness occurs when the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) is irritated, inflamed, or infected. Such a condition is called peritonitis.

  • Causes

    • Abdominal abscess
    • Appendicitis
    • Certain types of hernias
    • Meckel's diverticulum
    • Ovarian torsion (twisted Fallopian tube)
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Any person with point tenderness should call the emergency number (911) or go to an emergency room to be examined right away by a health care provider.

  • What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    Your health care provider will examine you and gently push on different areas of your belly. Persons with peritonitis will often tense the abdominal muscles when area is touched. This is called "guarding."

    The doctor will note any point tenderness. This is a general term that means you have tenderness in a certain area.

    For example, if you have appendicitis, you will likely have point tenderness when a certain part of your belly area is touched. This area is called McBurney's point.

    The health care provider will also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history:

    • When did the symptoms start?
    • Is this the first time you have had such discomfort?
    • If not, when does the discomfort tend to occur?
    • What other symptoms do you have? For example, do you have:
      • Constipation
      • Diarrhea
      • Fainting
      • Fever
      • Vomiting

    The following tests may be done:

    • Abdominal x-ray
    • Abdominal CT scan (occasionally)
    • Blood work, such as a complete blood count

    In some cases, immediate surgery will be needed. This may involve an exploratory laparotomy or an emergency appendectomy.

Related Information

  PeritonitisAppendicitis    

References

Mcquaid K. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 134.

Squires RA, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 47.

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Review Date: 10/14/2012  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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