A very large, 10 year survey of U.S. hospitals found that millions of people visit the emergency room each year for abdominal pain. In fact, abdominal pain is the NUMBER ONE NON-TRAUMA REASON FOR WHICH PEOPLE VISIT THE EMERGENCY ROOM.
And, more shocking and troubling than that, of the 12 million people who go to the emergency room every year for abdominal pain, the majority of them (83%) walk away WITHOUT a serious diagnosis. Which means that most of these patients walk away still suffering with the same pain they went in with. And if you have had this experience, you probably think you were the exception – the rare person whose problem couldn’t be identified. But the opposite is true – you are the norm – the 83%!
Emergency medical workers routinely check patients with abdominal pain for such things as appendicitis, gallstones, pancreatitis, bowel obstruction, internal bleeding, kidney problems and pregnancy. And most are found to have nothing. Well, nothing that could be identified…except of course the pain. The pain is acutely identified by the patient. But the cause of the pain? That is a complete mystery to the emergency care experts.
One reason emergency room doctors are not able to diagnose most abdominal pain is because ERs are set up to save your life. When your abdominal pain is related to a potentially life threatening issue, then the ER will likely find the problem. They are trained experts at both finding the problem(s) that could kill you quickly, and using either drugs or surgery to save your life. This is extremely valuable if that is what you need, and compared to 50 years ago, modern medicine is truly a miracle.
But what if it FEELS like the pain is life threatening, but it is really just a “quality of life” threatening issue? If that is the case, as it is in most abdominal pain patients seen in the emergency room, then the ER is poorly equipped to find and treat the problem. And it doesn’t matter if you go to your local hospital or the Mayo Clinic. The outcome will usually be the same.
Many patients who have been to the IBS Treatment Center have had this exact experience. They have been to fine, well-respected hospitals with unbearable, though not life threatening, abdominal pain and have been sent home with the diagnosis of “abdominal pain.”
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.