What Is a Blumberg Sign? (with pictures)

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
The Blumberg sign is performed by pressing on a patient's abdomen.
The Blumberg sign is performed by pressing on a patient's abdomen.

Discovered by a German doctor, the Blumberg sign is a sign elicited by a patient during a physical examination. It is usually indicative of certain abdominal problems, particularly peritonitis. To check for this sign, an examining physician presses on a patient's abdomen. If the patient feels pain when the pressure is removed, there is a good chance that he is suffering from peritonitis.

Blood tests may be performed to diagnose damage to the abdominal cavity.
Blood tests may be performed to diagnose damage to the abdominal cavity.

The Blumberg sign was named after the individual who discovered it, Jacob Moritz Blumberg. Blumberg was a German-Jewish surgeon and gynecologist who practiced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with discovering the Blumberg sign, he also invented a special surgical glove that enabled surgeons to grasp certain instruments better.

To check for peritonitis, many doctors still use the Blumberg sign during their initial diagnoses. The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the pelvic and abdominal cavities and organs. Peritonitis occurs when this membrane becomes damaged or inflamed. Other symptoms of this can include bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and fever.

The Blumberg sign may be performed on an individual complaining of abdominal problems.
The Blumberg sign may be performed on an individual complaining of abdominal problems.

Pressing down on a patient's abdomen is usually the first thing that a doctor will do when he checks for the Blumberg sign. He will then quickly release the area, allowing it to spring back into place. If the patient feels a sharp pain when the flesh is released, he has tested positive for the Blumberg sign.

It may not always be easy to detect whether a patient feels pain during this test. While some patients may simply tell a doctor if it hurts, others, such as infants, may not. Doctors are usually taught to watch a person's face during this test. If a person does not flinch, he most likely did not feel any pain. On the other hand, if his face becomes contorted in pain, the doctor will usually surmise that he experience pain.

After a patient tests positive for the Blumberg sign, a doctor will also usually use another type of test to confirm his diagnosis. Blood or peritoneal fluid samples may be taken to check for high white blood cell counts, which usually indicate the presence of an infection. Imaging tests may also be used to check for damage to the abdominal cavity.

Prompt peritonitis treatment is very important. If not treated, this condition can sometimes be fatal. The first course of action is usually antibiotics. In some cases, the surgical removal of infected tissue may be necessary. Any other underlying abdominal problems, such as appendicitis, should also be treated as well.

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    • The Blumberg sign is performed by pressing on a patient's abdomen.
      The Blumberg sign is performed by pressing on a patient's abdomen.
    • Blood tests may be performed to diagnose damage to the abdominal cavity.
      Blood tests may be performed to diagnose damage to the abdominal cavity.
    • The Blumberg sign may be performed on an individual complaining of abdominal problems.
      The Blumberg sign may be performed on an individual complaining of abdominal problems.