The Right Upper Quadrant of the Abdomen

The right upper quadrant of the abdomen is that area of your abdomen just immediately below your right breast.  It is that area of your body that would be covered by placing the flat surface of your hand below your right breast. See the exact boundaries and descriptions as well as organs found in the right upper abdominal quadrants as well as common causes of pain here.

The right upper quadrant of the abdomen is also referred to as the right hypochondrial region of the abdomen or right upper abdomen.

It is a very common site of pain in "females" who are "forty" years or older, "fair" skinned, "fertile" and "fat". They tend to experience a right upper quadrant pain radiating to the back and pain often occur within minutes or an hour after eating.

Anyone of any built or shade can experience pain in this part of the abdomen.

The boundaries  of the right upper abdominal quadrant are a vertical line drawn downward through your nipple to the level of your right lowest rib and then drawn horizontally towards the right, as can be seen in the diagram shown on this page.

Many people describe this part of the abdomen as their lower chest. It is actually in the abdomen, and not in the chest.

To help understand the causes of pain in the upper right abdomen, it is important to familiarize yourself with organs found in this part of the abdomen.

Organs In The Right Upper Quadrant of The Abdomen

Organs and structures in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen include:

  • Skin and Muscles over the area. The main muscles found in this area are the upper fibers of the External oblique, the Serratus anterior and the borders of Latissimus dorsi muscle on the right. The outer border of the Rectus abdominis muscle is just outside this area and it is not found in the right upper quadrant.
  • The Right Half of the Liver. The right half of the liver is the biggest section of the liver and it is the most prominent organ lying with the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. Lying just below and attached to the right half of the liver is the gallbladder.
  • The Gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped sac where bile produced from the liver is stored. It is attached to the undersurface of the right half of the liver. It has a small neck that continues as the Cystic duct, which joins and empties into the bile duct. Over concentration of bile salts in the gallbladder leads to formation of bile stones that could cause obstruction of these ducts, leading to a condition referred to as biliary colic.
  • 1st Part of the Duodenum. The duodenum is the very first part that connects the stomach and the small intestines. The forms a c-shaped coverture with the convexity pointing to the right. The 1st parts of the duodenum could extend into the right upper quadrant, though this is typically found within the epigastrium. The duodenum, for sake of description, is medically divided into three parts.
  • Hepatic Flexure and Part of the Transverse Colon. The first part of the large intestine or colon moves upwards towards the position of the right half of the liver and just under the liver, it turns from being vertical to a horizontal position in its journey towards the left. These two parts –the point of turning from vertical to horizontal and the horizontal part of the colon are called the hepatic flexure and transverse colon respectively.
  • Part of the Right Kidney. The right kidney lies deep inside the abdomen, more to the back than in front. Kidney stone or infection or indeed tumour in the right kidney can cause pain in this region.
  • Right Ureter. Part of the right ureter passes deep inside the area of the right upper quadrant towards the back. This is why ureteric stone on the right could lead to pain in or close to the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

Common Causes of Pain In The Right Upper Quadrant

Common causes of pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen are:

  • Costochondritis
  • Herpes zoster (shingles) affecting the skin in that region
  • Right lower lobe pneumonia
  • Biliary colic
  • Cholecystitis
  • Peptic (duodenal) ulcer
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver cysts or infection
  • Curtis – Fitz Hugh Syndrome
  • Kidney stone
  • Kidney infection
  • Sprained muscles
  • Knotting of the muscles in that region – myofascial trigger point pain syndrome
  • Liver cancer or other forms of liver tumour.

Causes of Right Upper Quadrant pain During Pregnancy

Are you pregnant and experiencing pain in your right upper abdominal quadrant?

Pain in this part of your abdomen during pregnancy can be caused by all the above mentioned conditions, as well as a few other conditions brought on by the peculiarity of pregnancy.  Such conditions include:

If you are experiencing pain in your right upper abdomen during pregnancy and it is lasting for more than an hour, it may be best to seek medical attention promptly.