Abdominal pain can be a sign of an urgent medical problem. Make sure to get to an emergency room when symptoms appear.
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Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center

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Stomach Pain Emergency | Get ER Ready

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Anatomy of a Stomach Ache


9:00pm   

I’ll bet it was the lasagna. Homemade, oozing rivers of hot, fresh, real imported mozzarella cheese. Could be it was that second helping. OK, maybe that third helping.

And now my stomach hurts. A lot.

Don’t look at me like that.


9:30pm   

It’s getting worse. I’ve swallowed teaspoon after teaspoon of the pink stuff, plus tablet after tablet of the fizzy stuff. Guess what? My stomach still hurts, and I hate to tell you, it’s not getting any better.


10:00pm   

Now that I think about it, it may not actually be my stomach. It’s in that same general area, but a little further down. No, not that far down. And over to the side a little.

You think maybe it's a virus? Isn’t there something going around? Weren’t they talking about this on the news last night?

Yeah, that’s got to be it.


11:00pm   

I want your expert opinion. If this were you, what would you do?

The ER?

Um, no. You must be kidding. The ER’s for really serious stuff. I walk in there with a tummy ache, and they’ll never stop laughing. I’ll be blacklisted from there the next time I have an actual emergency. No, that would be bad. I’m fine.


11:15pm   

I’m not fine. It hurts. I give up. I don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what’s going on.

I’m not going to lie here moaning and tossing and turning any longer.

ER, here I come, ready or not. Please don’t laugh at me ...


The Many, Many Causes of “Stomach” Pain

Think about all the organs, muscles, blood vessels and tissue that are in the area we all commonly call our “stomach” (even though we know it’s a lot more than that): Your liver, spleen, diaphragm, bowels, sex organs, and more. Really, it’s at least a third of your body. An injury, infection or disease to any one of these areas can cause pain of varying degree. Most of those don’t require a trip to the emergency room. But here are a few that might:

  • Heart attack
  • Indigestion
  • Acid reflux
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach virus
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcer
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones
  • Appendicitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Diverticulitis
  • Muscle strain
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Endometriosis
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Thyroid problems
  • Stress
  • Hepatitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Ischemic bowel
  • Cancer

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11:30pm   

Well, here we are. Nobody’s laughing. And they sure didn’t waste any time either. One look at me, and they whisked me right into the exam room. Nothing too complicated about their questions, either.

Where does it hurt? How long has it hurt? Has this ever happened before?

I told them it was the lasagna. They made it clear I should never be too embarrassed to come in if I’m in pain – better safe than sorry!


What Will the ER Team Want to Know About Your Stomach Pain?

Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer if you head to the ER with stomach pain:

  • How did the pain begin, what were you doing?
  • Is the pain steady/constant? Or does it come and go?
  • Have you had similar pain before?
  • Is the pain in one place or does it move?
  • What makes it worse (e.g., sneezing, coughing)?
  • What makes it better (e.g., lying still, changing position, vomiting, taking antacids)?
  • What is the frequency of nausea or diarrhea, if any?
  • Did you take any medications to relieve the symptoms? What medications did you take and at what time? What was the dose of the medication?
  • Did you take anything for these symptoms? If so, what amount?
  • Do you have blood in your urine or stool?
  • Are you pregnant?


What Tests May Be Used to Evaluate Abdominal Pain?

Diagnosing the causes of stomach pain starts with the typical battery of blood tests and physical exams (including a pregnancy test and pelvic exam for women). It all depends on your symptoms and what doctors find from their exams. Testing may also include:

  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CAT scan
  • MRI
  • Endoscopy


Midnight   

These people are good – I mean seriously good – at their job. And guess what? It wasn’t the lasagna after all.

Turns out I have gallstones! Go figure. Never had those before.


1:30am   

You know the best thing about the pain meds they give you for gallstones? It makes your pain seem far away, like thinking about tax season in May. So ... yay for pain meds!

And they gave me the name of a specialist. I’ll be calling him first thing tomorrow morning. Together we’ll come up with a plan. I sure am happy I have an ER I can always go to, regardless of the emergency, even if I’m not sure it’s really an emergency.

And I’m even happier it wasn’t my Mom’s lasagna.

But I’m happiest that they have meds in the ER to make a gallstone feel like it’s happening to someone else, far, far away.

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Scan to Sign-In to the ER

Take advantage of new ID scan kiosks at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center Emergency Room to lessen the paperwork you have to fill out in the waiting room. To check in, just scan your license or government-issued ID in the kiosks.

Reston is committed to improving the patient experience, by working to make emergency room visits as effortless and stress-free as possible. That means getting you seen quickly so you can return to your life.

Kiosk in Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center Emergency Room

ER Checklist: What to Bring

  • Insurance card and photo ID
  • List of current medications and dosages
  • List of allergies
  • Test results or information related to recent diagnosis or chronic condition
  • Phone number and correct spelling of your primary physician’s name
  • Phone number for your emergency contact
  • List of questions and pen/paper to write answers
  • Glasses and hearing aids
  • Healthcare paperwork (advance directive, healthcare proxy, DNR)
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Someone to help translate if you’re not fluent in English
  • Another adult to help or keep you company
  • For suspected poisoning: Bring the medication, household cleaner or other substance with you, including the container
  • For kids, you might also want to bring a comfort item, like a stuffed animal, and something to do (e.g., toy or coloring book)

Do not delay seeking medical attention to find these items.

Spread the Word: Listen to Your Gut

When it comes to stomach pain, it pays to listen to your “gut.” If something feels wrong, get it checked out at your local ER. Use your Facebook or Twitter accounts to spread the word:

Cause of Stomach Pain Social Share Card
Ulcers don't come from spicy food
Acid Reflux Linked to Weight Social Share Card
Crowded Conditions and Norovirus Social Share Card