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Point tenderness - abdomen

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Abdominal tenderness

Considerations

The abdomen is an area of the body a health care provider can easily examine by touch. The 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. This is called peritonitis.

Causes

Causes include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get emergency medical help right away if you have abdominal point tenderness.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and gently push on places on your belly. People with peritonitis will often tense the abdominal muscles when the area is touched. This is called guarding.

The provider will note any point of of tenderness. The location of the tenderness can indicate the problem that is causing it. For example, if you have appendicitis, you will have tenderness when a certain place is touched. This spot is called McBurney point.

The provider will also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. These may include:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Is this the first time you have had such discomfort?
  • If not, when does the discomfort tend to occur?
  • Are you having other symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, fainting, vomiting, or fever?

You may need to have the following tests:

In some cases, you may need surgery right away. This may involve an exploratory laparotomy or an emergency appendectomy.

References

McQuaid K. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

Squires R, Carter SN, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.

Swartz MH. The abdomen. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 14.


Review Date: 12/10/2016
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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