Objective: Abdominal pain is a common problem in childhood and accounts for a significant workload in general practice. The aim of this study was assess the nature of abdominal pain in a sample of Australian children attending a Western Australian general practice for any reason, and to determine factors associated with the reporting of such pain.
Methodology: A prospective study of children and their families attending a rural general practice was undertaken using a parental survey to assess the frequency and nature of abdominal pain, demographic features, physical and behavioural characteristics.
Results: Abdominal pain was common in this population; 44% (70 of 164) of parents reported that the index child had experienced abdominal pain in the past 12 months. The average age of children who experienced recent abdominal pain was 9 years and 9 months. Multivariate analysis suggested that children experiencing abdominal pain in the preceding 12 months were more likely to be anxious (odds ratio (OR) = 3.74, P = 0.01), to have a family history of similar problems in siblings (OR = 4.26, P = 0.01) and to experience sleep disturbance (OR = 3.90, P = 0.02) than children without abdominal pain. Consumption of three or more serves of wholemeal bread or cereals per day had a significant protective effect on reported abdominal pain in children (OR = 0.12, P = 0.03). The majority of families (66%) dealt with the pain without resorting to medical care.
Conclusions: Abdominal pain remains a common problem of children attending an Australian general practice, and was associated with features suggesting that it is related to anxiety and coping ability. Abdominal pain is not usually associated with disease; most families recognize this and cope with abdominal pain without medical consultation.