Abdominal rigidity describes stiffness of the wall of the abdomen.
Abdominal rigidity is often caused by a spasm of the abdominal wall muscles after an injury. It may also be a sign that the person has swelling inside the abdominal cavity. Serious disease, especially infection, inside the abdomen can also cause abdominal rigidity.
Abdominal rigidity itself is considered a sign of disease. Some other symptoms that often go along with it are as follows: an abdomen that is tender to the touch abdominal pain constipationfevernausea and vomiting
Rigidity may point to a local problem in the muscles. Or it may relate to a deeper problem inside the abdomen. These are causes of abdominal rigidity: bleeding into the muscles of the abdominal wallbowel or abdominal infection, such as diverticulitis or appendicitisan inflammation of the pancreasinjury or strain to the muscles of the abdominal wallperitonitis, or an inflamed lining of the abdomen
Most of the time, abdominal rigidity cannot be prevented; in fact, it is a helpful physical sign alerting the healthcare professional of a deeper underlying problem. A few cases may be prevented by avoiding alcohol abuse that leads to pancreatitis. Following sports safety guidelines for children,adolescents, and adults may reduce injuries to the abdomen.
Abdominal rigidity itself is easily seen and felt on physical exam. Diagnosing why abdominal rigidity is happening begins with the medical history.
If the cause is not immediately apparent, the healthcare professional may order tests such as: an abdominal CT scan or abdominal MRIblood testsan ultrasoundurine tests
One should be concerned about abdominal rigidity. It can point to the presence of a life-threatening infection. If this is the case, death may occur if prompt treatment fails to work.
Abdominal rigidity is not contagious, and poses no risks to others.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If abdominal rigidity is due to a muscle injury, rest and pain medicines are used. Other causes need more extensive treatment, such as: antibioticsintravenous fluidssurgery
Medicines may cause allergic reactions and stomach upset. Surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
Treatment often stops when the person recovers and the rigidity goes away. The condition may be cured for good, as it is when the appendix is removed with an appendectomy. In more serious cases, death may occur if treatment is not successful.
The need for monitoring depends on the underlying cause of the problem. Both the symptoms and the physical exam findings should be followed closely hour by hour, although the clinician should avoid pushing repeatedly on a tender abdomen. Urine tests, blood tests, and X-ray tests also may be needed to monitor the condition. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional immediately.
Principles of Surgery, 1999, Schwartz et al.