Objective: To describe the frequency of dehydration as a medical cause of acute abdomen.
Design: Cross-sectional analytical study.
Place and duration of study: The study was conducted at Combined Military Hospital, Malir Cantonment Karachi between March 1, 2000 to March 1, 2002.
Subjects and methods: All the patients reporting with abdominal pain to the surgical outpatient department or the emergency department, were reviewed in the study. The clinical findings in all these cases were studied along with the mode of their management and outcome.
Results: Of all the patients presenting with abdominal pain, 303% (n=68) were suffering from dehydration related abdominal pain. They were predominantly males in a ratio of 8.7:1, mostly in the 2nd and 3rd decades of their lives. All these cases were suffering from acute or chronic dehydration were provisionally diagnosed by general practitioners as 'acute abdomen' and referred for surgical consultation. Associated symptoms included vomiting in 42.6% backache in 91.2%, headache in 95.6%, and pain in lower limbs in 97.1% of the cases. 83.8% required indoor management with intravenous fluids. All the patients became asymptomatic with rehydration therapy.
Conclusion: Dehydration is a possible cause of severe abdominal pain. There is a need to educate the general public about the benefits of adequate fluid intake.