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 if the person is in severe pain, is very unwell or if there is a penetrating wound

2.      Control bleeding and cover any wound

  • Apply firm pressure and 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 or cling film 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.

See a doctor if the person is in pain or is feeling unwell

Call Healthline on 0800611116 if you are uncertain

Have the information on hand when you need it the most.
Buy the First Aid Handbook >>

Learn the practical skills to help save a life.
Book a first aid course >>

Rainbow TickBuy the St John First Aid BookTake a First Aid CourseBuy a St John First Aid Kit