Gastrointestinal Tract Emergency Diagnosis

Gastrointestinal (GI) emergencies require prompt diagnosis. The first steps involved in diagnosis usually include taking a patient history and a history of symptoms, and performing a complete physical examination.

A patient history includes information about past and current illnesses, medical conditions (e.g., allergies), and medications, and often includes a family history. A history of symptoms includes information about the onset of symptoms, the severity of symptoms, and the circumstances surrounding symptom onset.

During physical examination, the patient's vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature) and level of consciousness (i.e., neurological status) are evaluated. The physician looks for signs of GI emergency, such as abdominal tenderness and swelling, low blood pressure, fever, and rapid heart rate.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed to help diagnose GI emergencies include laboratory tests (e.g., blood tests, stool tests, urine tests), imaging tests (e.g., CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound, barium enema), and endoscopic procedures (e.g., upper endoscopy, upper GI series, sigmoidoscopy).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Feb 2008

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015