The abdominal cavity lies below the ribcage and above the pelvic cavity. Unlike the chest and pelvic cavities, there are no bones to protect the abdomen and any injury may cause serious damage to some of the abdominal organs, including the liver, spleen or stomach. In some cases, the injury may involve both the abdominal and pelvic contents. If this occurs, the injured patient may bleed to death internally unless urgent hospital treatment is provided.

Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present

  • history of injury to the abdominal area
  • bleeding wound or other obvious injury, possibly with visible intestines
  • severe pain and possible muscle spasm across the abdominal wall
  • nausea or vomiting
  • bruising of the skin
  • patient unable to stand and holding the injured area for pain relief
  • patient shows other indications of internal bleeding

How you can help

1.      Place patient at total rest and assess the injury

  • Assist the patient to lie down in a position of greatest comfort, usually on the back or on the uninjured side, with both knees drawn up for relief of pain and spasm.
  • Loosen any tight clothing, especially at waist and neck. Support the patient with pillows and blankets for comfort, as needed. Give frequent reassurance.

Call 111 for an ambulance.

2.      Control bleeding and cover any wound

  • If necessary, hold the wound edges together to control bleeding. Sometimes the patient can change position slightly to help the wound to close.  
  • If the intestines are visible, DO NOT touch or try to replace them. 
  • Cover a gaping wound with sterile dressings soaked in warm water to avoid damage to organs.

DO NOT allow the patient to eat, drink or smoke.

3.      Observe the patient 

  • While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, observe the patient closely for any changes in condition.

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