Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Analgesia and assessment of abdominal pain
  1. Kevin Mackway-Jones,
  2. Magnus Harrison
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL

    Statistics from

    Request Permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

    Report by Kevin Mackway-Jones, Consultant Search checked by Magnus Harrison Research Fellow

    Clinical scenario

    A 12 year old girl presents to the emergency department with “tummy ache”. The history and examination are suggestive of appendicitis. You call the surgical team but they are unable to attend for one hour as they are busy in theatre. You wonder if giving analgesia will affect the accuracy of the surgical diagnosis.

    Three part question

    In a [patients with abdominal pain] does [analgesia prior to surgical consultation] affect [the accuracy of surgical diagnosis]?

    Search strategy

    Medline 1966 to 12/99 using the OVID interface. ([ exp abdominal pain OR abdominal pain$.mp OR exp peritonitis OR] OR {[exp pain OR pain$.mp] AND [abdom$.mp OR exp stomach OR OR]}) AND [exp analgesia OR exp morphine OR exp analgesia, opioid OR analgesi$.mp] AND maximally sensitive RCT filter LIMIT to human and english.

    Search outcome

    Altogether 78 papers were found of which 73 were irrelevant or of insufficient quality for inclusion. The remaining five papers are shown in table 4.

    Table 4


    All the studies show considerable benefit to the patient from pain relief with either no change in diagnostic accuracy or an improvement.

    Clinical bottom line

    Patients with acute, atraumatic abdominal pain should have analgesia administered without delay.

    Report by Kevin Mackway-Jones, Consultant Search checked by Magnus Harrison Research Fellow



    • The BMA library supplied the papers.