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Singapore Med J. 2013 Apr;54(4):195-9; quiz 200.

Recurrent abdominal pain in childhood.

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Gastroenterology Service, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women's and Children's Hospital, Singapore.


Recurrent abdominal pain in childhood is common, and continues to be a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. It is usually attributed to a functional gastrointestinal disorder rather than an organic disease. In most cases, a comprehensive history and physical examination should enable one to make a positive diagnosis of functional disorder. The presence of alarm symptoms and signs, such as weight loss, gastrointestinal bleeding and chronic severe diarrhoea, warrants further investigations and referral to a paediatric gastrointestinal specialist. The mainstay of therapy in functional abdominal pain is education, reassurance and avoidance of triggering factors. While symptom-based pharmacological therapy may be helpful in patients who do not respond to simple management, it is best used on a time-limited basis due to the lack of good evidence of its efficacy. The primary goal of therapy is a return to normal daily activities rather than complete elimination of pain. In recalcitrant cases, psychological interventions such as cognitive behaviour therapy and relaxation training have proven to be efficacious.

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