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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 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.

Common Causes

Call your health care provider if

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 health care provider's office

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:

The following tests may be done:

In some cases, immediate surgery will be needed. 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. 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.


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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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