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Updated May 16, 2013.

Acute Abdominal Pain:

Although tummy aches seem like an inevitable part of childhood, there are times when a child’s pain seems so intense that parents can grow quite concerned. A study published in the December 2007 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics shines some light as to the cause and potential treatment for abdominal pain in kids that's severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room.

The Study:


The medical charts of 962 children, ages 4 and older, who were seen for at least one doctor’s visit over a six month period were reviewed.

The Results:

Of the charts reviewed, the chief complaint of 9% of the children was acute abdominal pain. Significantly more girls (12%) than boys (5%) had this symptom. The most frequent cause of this complaint (48%) was acute or chronic constipation. Only 2% of the children required surgery. In 19% of the cases, no cause was discovered.

The Bottom Line:

If your child is experiencing acute abdominal pain, it is important that you contact your physician for a full evaluation. This study indicates that constipation is a likely cause of acute abdominal pain in children and your doctor should assess this as a potential diagnosis. Remember, however, that more than 50% of cases in this study were not due to constipation. If you're concerned with preventing constipation, discuss dietary changes and other strategies for promoting regular bowel movements with your child's doctor.

Source: Constipation as Cause of Acute Abdominal Pain in Children . Loening-Baucke, V. & Swidsinski, A. (2007) Journal of Pediatrics, 151: 666-669.
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