Left Upper Quadrant Pain - Diagnosis

What are the usual tests?

Your doctor will narrow the (enormous) field of possible diagnoses by talking to you and by examining you. They may be able to find the cause simply from doing so. For example, if they find the typical rash of shingles, you will need no further tests to find the cause. If they find your spleen to be enlarged this suggests the problem is related to your spleen or blood. If examination is normal, that already rules out quite a few possible diagnoses. The doctor will certainly need to feel your tummy (abdomen) in the area you have the pain, but may also need to examine other parts too, such as the rest of your tummy and your chest.

You will probably be asked to provide a sample of urine, to check the colour and to rule out kidney problems.

You may well have to go for blood tests. These might include tests to:

  • Check the function of your pancreas, liver and kidneys.
  • Rule out any inflammation or infection in your system.
  • Screen for lymphomas and leukaemias and to look for anaemia.
  • Check your sugar level.

What are the next steps?

Next it will depend on what examination and the tests above have suggested. In some cases no further tests will be needed - if, for example, your doctor is confident you have indigestion, or constipation or shingles.

If a heart or lung problem is suspected, a heart tracing (electrocardiogram, or ECG) and/or chest X-ray might be required. If a problem with your stomach or upper bowel is suspected, you may need an examination with a tube with a camera put down into your stomach (an endoscopy). A computerised tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound scan may be helpful to look at your spleen, pancreas or kidneys. In some cases an X-ray of the tummy may be useful. Further tests include other "scopes" (such as a colonoscopy or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and other scans (such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan).

Nobody will need all these tests, and some people may not need any.

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  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Evaluation of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 1 77(7):971-8.
  • Kim JS; Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Dec 16(4):219-224. Epub 2013 Dec 31.
  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Apr 1 91(7):452-9.
Author:
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
29409 (v1)
Last Checked:
08 July 2017
Next Review:
07 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.