Unexplained Abdominal Pain

Pain and other abdominal symptoms can signal any number of problems, from indigestion to cancer. If a patient is to get the right treatment, it helps to consult with the most knowledgeable clinicians with the most advanced diagnostic tools available.

Technology, such as video cameras that can be swallowed and generate images of a person's digestive system, are now available to diagnose gastrointestinal problems such as unexplained abdominal pain, bleeding with an unknown origin or anemia.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is one of the few medical centers in the United States that provides the ingestible video camera to patients who are not in research studies.

No bigger than a large capsule, the tiny video camera can be swallowed and then eliminated in about 24-hours. The camera transmits data to an array of receivers placed on the patient's body. A recorder worn on the patient's belt collects the data. The doctor, using special software and a computer workstation can process the data and produce a video with additional information from the digestive tract. The camera itself is disposable and the patient can continue his or her normal daily activities while the camera is working.

Such uses of the latest technology at Cedars-Sinai help eliminate the need for traditional surgery. Minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical techniques are less painful for patients, allow for faster recovery times and a quicker return to normal, daily activities.

Under the direction of Dr. Simon Lo, the pancreaticobiliary team at Cedars-Sinai is one of the best equipped to accurately diagnose any of a host of problems that can arise in the digestive system. Some of the more serious conditions associated with abdominal pain, include:

  • Appendicitis, which starts as general abdominal pain and settles into the lower right side
  • Acute pancreatitis, which is marked by general, constant pain in the upper abdomen, getting worse and sometimes moving to the upper back; patient may be weak, short of breath, sick to his or her stomach
  • Biliary colic, which is marked by a steady ache in the upper right abdomen that sometimes spreads to the upper back; some patients may experience nausea and vomiting
  • Crohn's disease, which has symptoms similar to appendicitis in the lower right side; patient may have bloody diarrhea
  • Diverticulitis, which causes moderate pain in the lower left side of the abdomen that grows worse over time
  • Gallstones, which cause severe, cramping pain in the lower right part of the abdomen and may spread to the back
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which causes a burning sensation or discomfort after eating, especially when lying down or bending over; pain in the chest that awakens at night; symptoms can be very similar to those of a heart attack
  • Hepatitis, which causes pain in the upper right abdomen and make also cause nausea and vomiting
  • Pancreatic cancer, which has the same symptoms as pancreatitis