Cancer Emergencies: The Acute Abdomen

Jonathan S. Ilgen, Amy L. Marr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The most common complaints among patients with cancer who present to the emergency department are related to the gastrointestinal system, and 40% of these patients complain of abdominal pain. These presentations can stem from the underlying malignancy itself, treatment directed toward the disease, or the full range of pathologies present in a healthy population. Immunosuppression may blunt many of the findings one expects in a healthy population of patients, thus rendering the clinical exam less reliable in many patients with cancer. Moreover, the degree of immunosuppression shapes both the types of pathologies the clinician should consider and the rate at which the disease may progress. Understanding the limitations of physical examination, pathophysiology of disease, and the methods by which these diagnoses are established is of critical importance in this population. This article focuses specifically on patients with cancer who present with an acute abdomen, and it discusses how a concurrent malignancy can shape the differential diagnosis in these cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-399
Number of pages19
JournalEmergency Medicine Clinics of North America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Abdominal pain
  • Immunosuppression
  • Malignancy
  • Malignant bowel obstruction
  • Management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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