When to Visit the ER for Abdominal Pain

Everyone experiences abdominal pain at one time or another. But how do you know if your pain, or that of a loved one, is severe enough that it requires an emergency department visit?

The short answer is, if your “gut” tells you that you need help right away, you should visit the emergency department. If you’re not sure whether emergency care is necessary, consider these guidelines.

If You Have These Symptoms, You May Require Emergency Care

If the pain is severe and unrelenting, your abdomen is tender to the touch or the pain radiates to your back, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care.

  • Fever
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dark, black stool
  • Unable to keep food down
  • Difficulty breathing or experiencing chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • A feeling of lightheadedness or that you might pass out 

If You Have These Medical Conditions, You May Require Emergency Care

For individuals with certain medical conditions, abdominal pain may reveal a more serious issue. If you have any of these medical conditions and are experiencing severe abdominal pain, you should visit an emergency department right away.

Individuals who have undergone gastric bypass surgery

  • Individuals who have had a recent endoscopy or abdominal surgery
  • Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant
  • Individuals over 45 experiencing upper abdominal pain (may indicate a heart attack)