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Abdominal Pain in Elderly Persons Medication

  • Author: E David Bryan, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
Updated: Dec 27, 2015

Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to reduce morbidity and prevent complications.



Class Summary

Believed to work centrally by suppressing conduction in the vestibular cerebellar pathways. They may have an inhibitory effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.

Dicyclomine (Bentyl)


Smooth muscle relaxant. Fairly effective in relieving pain from biliary tract disease. May be administered PO/IM. Cannot be administered IV.

Glycopyrrolate (Robinul)


Acts in smooth muscle, the CNS, and secretory glands where it blocks action of acetylcholine at parasympathetic sites. Similar to dicyclomine in effects. May be administered IV.


Opioid Analgesics

Class Summary

Pain control is essential to quality patient care. Analgesics ensure patient comfort, promote pulmonary toilet, and have sedating properties, which are beneficial for patients who have sustained trauma or have sustained injuries.

Morphine sulfate (Duramorph, Astramorph, MS Contin)


Generally safe in low-to-moderate doses in abdominal pain. Not recommended for biliary tract disease because of potential for sphincter of Oddi spasm.

Meperidine (Demerol)


Generally safe in low-to-moderate doses in abdominal pain. Causes less sphincter of Oddi spasm than morphine but has potential to cause CNS adverse effects.

Fentanyl citrate (Sublimaze)


Potent narcotic analgesic with much shorter half-life than morphine sulfate. Potential advantages in management of abdominal pain include short duration of action and lack of histamine release. Potential disadvantage is potential for sphincter of Oddi spasm.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

E David Bryan, MD Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Science Center at El Paso; Medical Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomason Hospital

E David Bryan, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP Professor of Emergency Medicine, Professor of Internal Medicine, Program Director for Emergency Medicine, Case Medical Center, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Heart Association, American Thoracic Society, Arkansas Medical Society, New York Academy of Medicine, New York Academy of Sciences, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Richard Lavely, MD, JD, MS, MPH Lecturer in Health Policy and Administration, Department of Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine

Richard Lavely, MD, JD, MS, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Legal Medicine, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Eugene Hardin, MD, FAAEM, FACEP Former Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science; Former Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Martin Luther King Jr/Drew Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Inflammatory mass in the right lower quadrant of an 84-year-old woman with mild abdominal pain of 2 days' duration. A ruptured appendix was found at surgery.
CT scan of a 76-year-old woman with severe abdominal pain of 3 hours' duration. Note the ringlike enhancement of bowel wall in the posterior abdomen. Ischemic small bowel was resected at surgery.
Radiograph of a 90-year-old man with abdominal pain of 4 days' duration. Plain films reveal large bowel dilatation. Sigmoid volvulus with ischemic colon was diagnosed at surgery.
Radiograph of a 79-year-old woman with several hours of diffuse abdominal pain. Initial examination of the plain films suggests bowel obstruction.
Radiograph of a 79-year-old woman with several hours of diffuse abdominal pain. Initial examination of the plain films suggests bowel obstruction. Close-up view reveals pneumatosis intestinalis, indicating mesenteric ischemia.
CT scan of a 64-year-old woman with vague abdominal pain of 2 days' duration. Physical examination revealed a tender palpable mass in the left lower quadrant. CT scan reveals an incarcerated ventral hernia.
CT scan of a 62-year-old man who reported 2 weeks of left lower quadrant abdominal pain. CT scan reveals fat stranding and multiple diverticula around the descending colon. A phlegmon containing bowel and inflammatory tissue has eroded into the left psoas muscle.
A lower CT scan slice from a 62-year-old man who reported 2 weeks of left lower quadrant abdominal pain. Multiple diverticula are observed with an inflammatory mass overlying the left ilium.
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