Medical Practice

Clinical Presentation of Acute Abdomen: Study of 600 Patients

Br Med J 1972; 3 doi: (Published 12 August 1972) Cite this as: Br Med J 1972;3:393
  1. J. R. Staniland,
  2. Janet Ditchburn,
  3. F. T. de Dombal


    This paper presents the clinical features of 600 patients suffering from abdominal pain of acute onset and admitted to either the General Infirmary or St. James's Hospital, Leeds. The survey was initially retrospective, but later put on a prospective basis. Roughly two-thirds of these 600 patients presented a “typical” picture of the disease with which they presented, while the remaining third presented one or more atypical features. Since other prospective studies have indicated that the diagnostic accuracy of a group of clinicians in respect of the acute abdomen is roughly 65% it is tentatively suggested (a) that clinical diagnosis contains a large element of “pattern-matching,” and (b) that such a policy can be expected to be ineffective in roughly one-third of all cases of acute abdominal pain.

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