Physical examination: By listening with a stethoscope, pressing, and tapping on the abdomen, a doctor gathers information that helps diagnose abdominal problems.
Upper endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD): A flexible tube with a camera on its end (endoscope) is inserted through the mouth. The endoscope allows examination of the stomach and duodenum (small intestine).
Lower endoscopy (colonoscopy): An endoscope is advanced through the anus into the rectum and colon. Colonoscopy can help identify problems in these areas, such as cancer or bleeding.
Abdominal X-ray: A plain X-ray of the abdomen can help see the organs and conditions in the belly including intestinal obstruction or perforation.
Computed tomography (CT scan): A CT scanner uses X-rays and a computer to create images of the abdomen. CT scanning can help identify some abdominal conditions, such as appendicitis and cancer.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan): Using radio waves in a magnetic field, a scanner creates highly detailed images of the abdomen. In the abdomen, MRI is usually used to check the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, but a CT scan may also be used.
Abdominal ultrasound: A probe on the abdomen reflects high-frequency sound waves off the abdominal organs, creating images on a screen. Ultrasound can detect problems in most abdominal organs, such as the gallbladder, liver, and kidneys.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Using an endoscope advanced to the intestine, a tube is placed into the duct from the pancreas and a fluid that blocks X-rays is squirted into the tubes that serve the gall bladder, liver, and pancreas. Then an X-ray picture is taken to find problems with those organs.
pH testing: Using a tube through the nose or a capsule in the esophagus, acid levels in the esophagus can be monitored. This can help diagnose GERD or evaluate a treatment's effectiveness.
Upper GI series (with small bowel follow-through): After swallowing a barium solution, X-ray films of the esophagus and stomach are taken. This can sometimes diagnose ulcers or other problems. In some cases they continue taking pictures as the barium courses through the small intestine.
Gastric emptying study: A test of how rapidly food passes through the stomach. The food is labeled with a radioactive substance and its movement viewed on a scanner.
Biopsy: A small piece of tissue is taken to help diagnose cancer, liver or other problems.
Abdominal surgery: Surgery is often necessary for serious abdominal conditions like cholecystitis, appendicitis, colon or stomach cancer, or an aneurysm. Surgery may be laparoscopic (several small incisions and using a camera and small tools) or open (one large incision, what most people think of as a typical surgery).
Histamine (H2) blockers: Histamine increases stomach acid secretion; blocking histamine can reduce acid production and GERD symptoms.
Proton pump inhibitors: These medicines directly inhibit the acid pumps in the stomach. They must be taken daily to be effective. There is, though, some concern about taking them for more than a few months.
Endoscopy: During upper or lower endoscopy, tools on the endoscope can sometimes treat problems (like bleeding or cancer) that are discovered.
Motility agents: Medicines can increase contraction of the stomach and intestines, improving symptoms of gastroparesis or constipation.
Antibiotics: H. pylori infection can be cured with antibiotics, which are taken with other medicines to help heal the stomach.
Laxatives: Various over-the-counter and prescription medicines can help relieve constipation.