Go to the emergency room if you have severe abdominal pain that makes you so uncomfortable that you can't sit still. You may be referred for immediate surgery to diagnose and treat your condition.
If your abdominal pain is moderate and predictable — for example, it always begins soon after eating — see your doctor. After an initial evaluation, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) or blood vessel disorders (vascular surgeon).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions, such as not eating after midnight on the night before your appointment.
- Write down your symptoms, including when they started and how they may have changed or worsened over time.
- Take a list of all your medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements.
- Write down your key medical information, including other conditions with which you've been diagnosed.
- Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life. These factors can be connected to digestive signs and symptoms.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help remember what was talked about.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the most likely cause of my condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- If I need surgery, what will my recovery be like?
- How will my diet and lifestyle change after I have surgery?
- What follow-up care and treatments will I need?
Don't hesitate to ask questions any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. It's helpful to think about these in advance. You may be asked:
Aug. 17, 2012
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms stayed the same or gotten worse over time?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- If your symptoms appear after eating, have they caused you to fear or avoid meals?
- How soon after eating do your symptoms begin?
- Do you tolerate small meals better than large ones?
- Are liquids easier to tolerate than solids?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Do you or did you smoke? How much?
- Have you lost weight?
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisinger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/book/player/linkTo?type=bookHome&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&uniq=200844987-3. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Catheter angiography. RadiologyInfo.org. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angiocath. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- What is atherosclerosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis/. Accessed June 20, 2012.