Right Upper Quadrant Pain - Treatment

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 08 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 08 Jul 2017

There is no single answer to this until you know what the cause of your pain is. See the relevant leaflet for the condition you are diagnosed with. Treatments for a few of the common causes of right upper quadrant (RUQ) pain are briefly discussed below.

  • Gallstones. In some cases symptoms are not very troublesome and can be managed by sticking to a low-fat diet only. Many people choose to have their gallbladder removed, in an operation called a cholecystectomy. This can usually be done by keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery.
  • Cholecystitis is treated initially with antibiotics, usually in hospital via injections or a drip (intravenous antibiotics). Once the infection has been treated, a cholecystectomy is usually advised.
  • Shingles. The pain and rash settle on their own in time, but some people may be advised to take an antiviral tablet to help speed this process up.
  • Kidney infections are treated with antibiotics. Mild infections can be treated with antibiotics at home. If you are very unwell you may need admission to hospital for intravenous antibiotics and fluids.
  • Kidney stones. Small kidney stones pass on their own eventually, in which case you will need to drink plenty of fluids and take strong painkillers. Larger kidney stones may need one of a number of procedures done to break them up or remove them altogether.
  • A duodenal ulcer is usually treated with acid-suppressing medication, as is indigestion.

Again, this is entirely dependent on the cause of the pain. Some conditions settle very quickly on their own (for example, gastroenteritis) or with the help of antibiotics (for example, a kidney infection). Others, such as gallstones, can be cured with treatment. Some, such as postherpetic neuralgia and sphincter of Oddi problems, rumble on for a long time. Your doctor should be able to give you an idea of the outlook (prognosis) once a diagnosis has become clear.

Further reading and references

  • Kim JS; Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Dec16(4):219-224. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

  • Wilcox CM; Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction Type III: New studies suggest new approaches are needed. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 May 2121(19):5755-61. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i19.5755.

  • Cholecystitis - acute; NICE CKS, January 2017 (UK access only)

  • Gallstones; NICE CKS, February 2015 (UK access only)

  • Ahmed F, Fogel EL; Right upper quadrant pain and a normal abdominal ultrasound. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Nov6(11):1198-201. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.06.020.

  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Apr 191(7):452-9.

This started in September 2017. I had a sharp pain under my rib cage, centre, above my belly button and was throwing up every time I stood up or walked. Dr came and out and gave me some tablets to...

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