Paediatric emergencies: non-traumatic abdominal emergencies.

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Presentation with acute abdominal pain or abdominal symptopathology is a very common cause of presentation of children to hospital. The causes are dependent in part on the age of the child, in part on the presence of previous surgery, and can be divided into those that relate to congenital abnormalities at whatever age they present, acquired disease and infection. Children, particularly young children are often poor historians, and therefore the clinical examination and the laboratory investigations are important in helping to come to a diagnosis. Primary imaging of abdominal emergencies in childhood is a radiograph of the abdomen, followed by ultrasound. Further imaging depends on the results of these studies. An ordered review of the abdomen radiograph is important if the salient features on X-ray are not to be missed. Practitioners should be competent with abdominal ultrasound in children and know where to seek the causes of disease, as these are different from those that are obtained in many instances in adults. Familiarity with the likely causes is important. The three commonest causes of acute abdominal pain in childhood are, in young infants, intussusception, appendicitis and mesenteric adenitis. In older children, inflammatory bowel disease and ovarian pathology are also included. This article details the approach to imaging and the salient features of some of the conditions.

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