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Abdominal Examination

The abdominal examination is the portion of the physical exam evaluating the abdomen for signs of disease. The abdominal examination consists of inspection Inspection Dermatologic Examination, auscultation, percussion Percussion Act of striking a part with short, sharp blows as an aid in diagnosing the condition beneath the sound obtained. Pulmonary Examination, and palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination. Along with information from the history, the information gathered from the physical examination of the abdomen is used by the physician to generate a differential diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient.

Last updated: Sep 8, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Introduction

1st steps:

  • Explain the steps to the patient and obtain consent.
  • Position the patient supine, arms at sides, with abdomen exposed.
  • Ensure good lighting, privacy, and hygiene.
  • Drape the patient with a sheet to preserve warmth.
  • Conventionally, the physical exam is performed with the provider standing on the right side of the patient.

The components of the abdominal exam:

In a different order (auscultation before percussion Percussion Act of striking a part with short, sharp blows as an aid in diagnosing the condition beneath the sound obtained. Pulmonary Examination), the same elements make up the other physical exam sections but carry different degrees of importance.

Pelvic, genital, and rectal exams should supplement the abdominal exam for a complete diagnostic workup of abdominal pathology.

Anatomy:

The abdomen is divided into 4 quadrants: right upper, right lower, left upper, and left lower. The quadrants correspond to specific organs and structures.

Inspection

  • Observe the distress level of the patient: 
    • Lying still: may be a sign of peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury 
    • Restless: may be a sign of renal colic 
  • Check surface, outline, and movements of the abdomen.
  • Findings:
    • Prior surgical scars or other skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions abnormalities:
      • Jaundice Jaundice Jaundice is the abnormal yellowing of the skin and/or sclera caused by the accumulation of bilirubin. Hyperbilirubinemia is caused by either an increase in bilirubin production or a decrease in the hepatic uptake, conjugation, or excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice in liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy failure
      • Grey Turner sign: bruising of the flanks (a sign of retroperitoneal Retroperitoneal Peritoneum: Anatomy hemorrhage), or bleeding behind the peritoneum Peritoneum The peritoneum is a serous membrane lining the abdominopelvic cavity. This lining is formed by connective tissue and originates from the mesoderm. The membrane lines both the abdominal walls (as parietal peritoneum) and all of the visceral organs (as visceral peritoneum). Peritoneum: Anatomy
      • Cullen sign: superficial edema Edema Edema is a condition in which excess serous fluid accumulates in the body cavity or interstitial space of connective tissues. Edema is a symptom observed in several medical conditions. It can be categorized into 2 types, namely, peripheral (in the extremities) and internal (in an organ or body cavity). Edema and bruising in the subcutaneous fatty tissue around the umbilicus, which is indicative of acute pancreatitis Acute pancreatitis Acute pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas due to autodigestion. Common etiologies include gallstones and excessive alcohol use. Patients typically present with epigastric pain radiating to the back. Acute Pancreatitis, bleeding from blunt abdominal trauma, bleeding from aortic rupture, or bleeding from ruptured ectopic pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care
    • Note the abdominal shape: flat, round, distended, symmetric, or asymmetric 
    • Abdominal striae, seen in:
      • Cushing syndrome Cushing syndrome A condition caused by prolonged exposure to excess levels of cortisol (hydrocortisone) or other glucocorticoids from endogenous or exogenous sources. It is characterized by upper body obesity; osteoporosis; hypertension; diabetes mellitus; hirsutism; amenorrhea; and excess body fluid. Endogenous Cushing syndrome or spontaneous hypercortisolism is divided into two groups, those due to an excess of adrenocorticotropin and those that are acth-independent. Paraneoplastic Syndromes  
      • Pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care
      • Weight gain
    • Vascular changes:
      • Caput medusae (sign of portal hypertension Hypertension Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common disease that manifests as elevated systemic arterial pressures. Hypertension is most often asymptomatic and is found incidentally as part of a routine physical examination or during triage for an unrelated medical encounter. Hypertension)
      • Cherry angiomas (senile angiomas):  
    • Hair distribution (may be indicative of vascular supply)
    • Protrusions (masses, hernias)

Auscultation

Because mechanical manipulations of the abdomen can alter the regularity of bowel sounds, auscultation is performed prior to percussion Percussion Act of striking a part with short, sharp blows as an aid in diagnosing the condition beneath the sound obtained. Pulmonary Examination or palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination.

Steps:

  • Listen for 2 minutes. 
  • Auscultate all 4 quadrants.

Findings:

  • Bruits: 
    • An abnormal sound generated by turbulent blood flow Blood flow Blood flow refers to the movement of a certain volume of blood through the vasculature over a given unit of time (e.g., mL per minute). Vascular Resistance, Flow, and Mean Arterial Pressure in an artery due to partial obstruction
    • May be indicative of atherosclerosis Atherosclerosis Atherosclerosis is a common form of arterial disease in which lipid deposition forms a plaque in the blood vessel walls. Atherosclerosis is an incurable disease, for which there are clearly defined risk factors that often can be reduced through a change in lifestyle and behavior of the patient. Atherosclerosis or aneurysmal disease
    • Listen over the aorta Aorta The main trunk of the systemic arteries. Mediastinum and Great Vessels: Anatomy, renal arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology, and iliac arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology.
  • Bowel sounds:
    • Low-to-medium pitched, gurgling bowel sounds every 5–15 sec indicate normal peristalsis Peristalsis A movement, caused by sequential muscle contraction, that pushes the contents of the intestines or other tubular organs in one direction. Gastrointestinal Motility.
    • Borborygmi sounds: stomach Stomach The stomach is a muscular sac in the upper left portion of the abdomen that plays a critical role in digestion. The stomach develops from the foregut and connects the esophagus with the duodenum. Structurally, the stomach is C-shaped and forms a greater and lesser curvature and is divided grossly into regions: the cardia, fundus, body, and pylorus. Stomach: Anatomy gurgling (normal)
    • Hyperactive bowel sounds:
      • High pitched (tinkling): bowel obstruction Bowel obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis
      • Gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines, commonly caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Transmission may be foodborne, fecal-oral, or through animal contact. Common clinical features include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and dehydration. Gastroenteritis, irritable bowel disease, laxative Laxative Agents that produce a soft formed stool, and relax and loosen the bowels, typically used over a protracted period, to relieve constipation. Hypokalemia use, diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea, and GI bleeding
    • Absent/ hypoactive bowel sounds:
      • Peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury
      • Late-stage bowel obstruction Bowel obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis
      • Intestinal ischemia Intestinal ischemia Intestinal ischemia occurs when perfusion fails to meet the demands of the intestines, resulting in ischemic tissue injury that can be life-threatening if bowel necrosis and/or perforation occurs. Symptoms can range from mild indigestion or diarrhea to severe abdominal pain. Intestinal Ischemia
      • Ileus Ileus A condition caused by the lack of intestinal peristalsis or intestinal motility without any mechanical obstruction. This interference of the flow of intestinal contents often leads to intestinal obstruction. Ileus may be classified into postoperative, inflammatory, metabolic, neurogenic, and drug-induced. Small Bowel Obstruction
Auscultation of the abdomen - listening for bowel sounds

Auscultation of the abdomen: listening for bowel sounds

Image by Lecturio. License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Auscultation of the abdomen - listening to the bruits over aorta, iliac and renal arteries

Auscultation of the abdomen: listening to the bruits over the aorta Aorta The main trunk of the systemic arteries. Mediastinum and Great Vessels: Anatomy, iliac, and renal arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology

Image by Lecturio. License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Percussion

  • Percuss all 4 quadrants.
  • The technique for abdominal percussion Percussion Act of striking a part with short, sharp blows as an aid in diagnosing the condition beneath the sound obtained. Pulmonary Examination is the same as the lung exam: 
    • Place the left hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy firmly against the abdominal wall Abdominal wall The outer margins of the abdomen, extending from the osteocartilaginous thoracic cage to the pelvis. Though its major part is muscular, the abdominal wall consists of at least seven layers: the skin, subcutaneous fat, deep fascia; abdominal muscles, transversalis fascia, extraperitoneal fat, and the parietal peritoneum. Surgical Anatomy of the Abdomen with only the middle finger resting on the skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions
    • Strike the distal interphalangeal joint of the left middle finger 2–3x with the tip of the right middle finger.
  • Normal findings: 
    • Tympanic sound over air-filled stomach Stomach The stomach is a muscular sac in the upper left portion of the abdomen that plays a critical role in digestion. The stomach develops from the foregut and connects the esophagus with the duodenum. Structurally, the stomach is C-shaped and forms a greater and lesser curvature and is divided grossly into regions: the cardia, fundus, body, and pylorus. Stomach: Anatomy and intestines
    • Muffled, dull sounds over fluid-filled or solid organs ( liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy, spleen Spleen The spleen is the largest lymphoid organ in the body, located in the LUQ of the abdomen, superior to the left kidney and posterior to the stomach at the level of the 9th-11th ribs just below the diaphragm. The spleen is highly vascular and acts as an important blood filter, cleansing the blood of pathogens and damaged erythrocytes. Spleen: Anatomy)
  • Determining liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy size:
    • Start just above the right breast (~ 3rd intercostal space) in the midclavicular line to produce a resonant sound.
    • Move the hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy down a few centimeters and repeat. 
    • After several times, the location is now over the liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy and producing a dull sound → remember the spot (consider marking the patient)
    • Continue downward until the sound changes again when the inferior margin of the liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy is reached → mark the spot
    • Use a ruler to measure between the points. 
    • The total span of the normal liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy is 6–12 cm.
  • Assess for ascites Ascites Ascites is the pathologic accumulation of fluid within the peritoneal cavity that occurs due to an osmotic and/or hydrostatic pressure imbalance secondary to portal hypertension (cirrhosis, heart failure) or non-portal hypertension (hypoalbuminemia, malignancy, infection). Ascites:
    • Transmitted thrill test (fluid wave):
      • Instruct the patient to push the hands down on the midline of the abdomen.
      • The result is positive if the tap can be felt on the other side.
    • Shifting dullness Shifting dullness Change of resonance (from dull to tympanic) when patient changes from supine to lateral decubitus position. Ascites test: 
      • Percuss the midline of the abdomen to elicit an area of high resonant note.
      • Percuss laterally (away from the examiner).
      • Instruct the patient to lean LEAN Quality Measurement and Improvement on the right lateral side.
      • Wait 30 sec for any fluid to shift.
      • The test is positive if the dull position becomes resonant.
Assessing for shifting dullness

Assessing for shifting dullness Shifting dullness Change of resonance (from dull to tympanic) when patient changes from supine to lateral decubitus position. Ascites

Image by Lecturio. License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Palpation

  • Ask the patient where the pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways hurts the most; start away from the pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways initially. 
  • Maintain eye contact during palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination (main indicator Indicator Methods for assessing flow through a system by injection of a known quantity of an indicator, such as a dye, radionuclide, or chilled liquid, into the system and monitoring its concentration over time at a specific point in the system. Body Fluid Compartments of pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways or discomfort).
  • Start with superficial palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination to assess for: 
    • Muscle tone Muscle tone The state of activity or tension of a muscle beyond that related to its physical properties, that is, its active resistance to stretch. In skeletal muscle, tonus is dependent upon efferent innervation. Skeletal Muscle Contraction
    • Superficial tenderness
  • Deep palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination to assess for: 
    • Deep tenderness
    • Abdominal masses including an aortic aneurysm Aneurysm An aneurysm is a bulging, weakened area of a blood vessel that causes an abnormal widening of its diameter > 1.5 times the size of the native vessel. Aneurysms occur more often in arteries than in veins and are at risk of dissection and rupture, which can be life-threatening. Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms (pulsating)
    • Voluntary or involuntary guarding (muscle contraction as pressure is applied)
    • Rigidity Rigidity Continuous involuntary sustained muscle contraction which is often a manifestation of basal ganglia diseases. When an affected muscle is passively stretched, the degree of resistance remains constant regardless of the rate at which the muscle is stretched. This feature helps to distinguish rigidity from muscle spasticity. Megacolon (involuntary spasms Spasms An involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. Spasms may involve skeletal muscle or smooth muscle. Ion Channel Myopathy, sign of peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury
    • Rebound tenderness Rebound Tenderness Acute Abdomen
      • Pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways occurs when the examiner suddenly releases compression Compression Blunt Chest Trauma of the abdominal wall Abdominal wall The outer margins of the abdomen, extending from the osteocartilaginous thoracic cage to the pelvis. Though its major part is muscular, the abdominal wall consists of at least seven layers: the skin, subcutaneous fat, deep fascia; abdominal muscles, transversalis fascia, extraperitoneal fat, and the parietal peritoneum. Surgical Anatomy of the Abdomen.
      • Sign of peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury 
  • Organ palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination:
    • Liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy:
      • Palpate from the RLQ toward the RUQ.
      • Ask the patient to take a deep breath Deep breath Respiratory Alkalosis to facilitate palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination of the liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy.
    • Spleen Spleen The spleen is the largest lymphoid organ in the body, located in the LUQ of the abdomen, superior to the left kidney and posterior to the stomach at the level of the 9th-11th ribs just below the diaphragm. The spleen is highly vascular and acts as an important blood filter, cleansing the blood of pathogens and damaged erythrocytes. Spleen: Anatomy:
      • Palpate from the LLQ toward the LUQ.
      • Ask the patient to take a deep breath Deep breath Respiratory Alkalosis to facilitate palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination of the spleen Spleen The spleen is the largest lymphoid organ in the body, located in the LUQ of the abdomen, superior to the left kidney and posterior to the stomach at the level of the 9th-11th ribs just below the diaphragm. The spleen is highly vascular and acts as an important blood filter, cleansing the blood of pathogens and damaged erythrocytes. Spleen: Anatomy
    • Kidneys Kidneys The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located retroperitoneally against the posterior wall of the abdomen on either side of the spine. As part of the urinary tract, the kidneys are responsible for blood filtration and excretion of water-soluble waste in the urine. Kidneys: Anatomy:
      • Place 1 hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy under the patient’s flank; press the fingertips of the other hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy into the same flank from above.
      • Feel for an enlarged kidney between your fingers.
  • Normal palpable structures:
    • Edge of the liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy (especially in thin patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship and the pediatric age group)
    • Lower lobe of the right kidney
    • Aorta Aorta The main trunk of the systemic arteries. Mediastinum and Great Vessels: Anatomy (in thin people)
    • Bladder Bladder A musculomembranous sac along the urinary tract. Urine flows from the kidneys into the bladder via the ureters, and is held there until urination. Pyelonephritis and Perinephric Abscess
    • Inguinal lymph Lymph The interstitial fluid that is in the lymphatic system. Secondary Lymphatic Organs nodes
    • Feces in the descending colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy
Palpation for abdominal tenderness in 4 quadrants

Palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination for abdominal tenderness in the 4 quadrants

Image by Lecturio. License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Special Tests

  • Murphy sign Murphy Sign Cholecystitis:
    • Elicited by asking the patient to take in and hold a deep breath Deep breath Respiratory Alkalosis while palpating the RUQ
    • If pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways occurs on inspiration Inspiration Ventilation: Mechanics of Breathing, Murphy sign Murphy Sign Cholecystitis is positive.
    • Indicates gallbladder Gallbladder The gallbladder is a pear-shaped sac, located directly beneath the liver, that sits on top of the superior part of the duodenum. The primary functions of the gallbladder include concentrating and storing up to 50 mL of bile. Gallbladder and Biliary Tract: Anatomy inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation ( cholecystitis Cholecystitis Cholecystitis is the inflammation of the gallbladder (GB) usually caused by the obstruction of the cystic duct (acute cholecystitis). Mechanical irritation by gallstones can also produce chronic GB inflammation. Cholecystitis is one of the most common complications of cholelithiasis but inflammation without gallstones can occur in a minority of patients. Cholecystitis)
  • Costovertebral angle tenderness: Gently tap over the costovertebral angle to evaluate for kidney pathology.
  • Signs of appendicitis Appendicitis Appendicitis is the acute inflammation of the vermiform appendix and the most common abdominal surgical emergency globally. The condition has a lifetime risk of 8%. Characteristic features include periumbilical abdominal pain that migrates to the right lower quadrant, fever, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting. Appendicitis
  • Complete the abdominal examination by performing the following:
    • Genitourinary examination:
      • Testicular exam 
      • Pelvic exam
    • Digital rectal examination Digital Rectal Examination A physical examination in which the qualified health care worker inserts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum and may use the other hand to press on the lower abdomen or pelvic area to palpate for abnormalities in the lower rectum, and nearby organs or tissues. The method is commonly used to check the lower rectum, the prostate gland in men, and the uterus and ovaries in women. Prostate Cancer Screening
      • Assess for rectal bleeding.
      • Assess for rectal masses.
      • Evaluate the prostate Prostate The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. The gland surrounds the bladder neck and a portion of the urethra. The prostate is an exocrine gland that produces a weakly acidic secretion, which accounts for roughly 20% of the seminal fluid. .

References

  1. Rabinowitz, S. (2020). Abdominal Examination. Emedicine. Retrieved April 16, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1909183-overview
  2. Kiev J, Eckhardt A, Kerstein MD. (1993). Reliability and accuracy of physical examination in detection of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Vascular Surgery 31: 143–46.
  3. McClouglin MJ, Colapinto RF, Hobbs BB. Abdominal bruits: Clinical and angiographic correlation. JAMA 1975; 232: 1238–42.
  4. Naylor CD. (1994). Physical examination of the liver. JAMA. 271: 1859–65.
  5. Sapira JD. (1990). The Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis. 1st edition, Baltimore; Williams and Wilkins. 371–90.

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