Abdominal mass overview

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Differentiating Abdominal Mass from other Diseases

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

An abdominal mass is any localized enlargement or swelling in the human abdomen. Depending on its location, the abdominal mass may be caused by an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), protruding kidney, a pancreatic mass, a retroperitoneal mass (a mass in the posterior of the peritoneum), an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or various tumours, such as those caused by abdominal carcinomatosis and omental metastasis. The treatments depend on the cause, and may range from watchful waiting to radical surgery.

Diagnosis

History and Symptoms

The first steps in diagnosis are a medical history and physical examination. Important clues during history include weight loss, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Physical Examination

During physical examination, the clinician must identify the location of the mass, as well as characterize its location (usually specified in terms of quadrants). The mass should be assessed for whether it is rigid or mobile. It should also be characterized for pulse or peristalsis, as these would help in further identifying the mass.

Laboratory Findings

Routine blood tests are usually the next step in diagnosis after a thorough medical history and physical examination. They should include a full blood count, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and liver function tests such as albumin, international normalized ratio (INR), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), serum amylase and total bilirubin (TBIL). If late-stage liver disease is suspected, then a serum glucose may be appropriate.

X Ray

KUB (kidneys, ureters, bladder) x-rays could possibly reveal free intraperitoneal air, constipation or obstruction.

CT

Abdominal CT with oral IV contrast will evaluate for bowel pathology, abscess, and hepatosplenomegaly.

References


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