NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

Sample Answer for NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen Included After Question

On your way home from dinner, you start experiencing sharp pains in your abdomen. You ate seafood—could you have food poisoning? What else might be causing your pain? Appendicitis? Should you head to the emergency room, or should you wait and see how you feel in the morning?

Numerous ailments can affect the GI system and the abdomen. Because the organs are so close, it can be difficult to conduct an accurate assessment. Also, pain in another area of the body can affect the GI system. For example, patients with chronic migraines often report nausea.

This week, you will explore how to assess the abdomen and gastrointestinal system.

NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen
NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

Learning Objectives – Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System

Students will:

  • Evaluate abnormal abdomen and gastrointestinal findings
  • Apply concepts, theories, and principles relating to health assessment techniques and diagnoses for the abdomen and gastrointestinal system

Photo Credit: Hill Creek Pictures/UpperCut Images/Getty Images

Learning Resources – Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2015). Seidel’s guide to physical examination (8th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

    • Chapter 4, “Vital Signs and Pain Assessment” (pp. 50-63)This chapter describes the experience of pain and its causes. The authors also describe the process of pain assessment. NURS 6512 Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System.


  • Chapter 17, “Abdomen” (pp. 370-415)In this chapter, the authors summarize the anatomy and physiology of the abdomen. The authors also explain how to conduct an assessment on the abdomen.

Dains, J. E., Baumann, L. C., & Scheibel, P. (2016). Advanced health assessment and clinical diagnosis in primary care (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

    • Chapter 3, “Abdominal Pain” (pp. 11-32)This chapter outlines how to collect a focused history on abdominal pain. This is followed by what to look for in a physical examination in order to make an accurate diagnosis.
    • Chapter 10, “Constipation” (pp. 110-117)The focus of this chapter is on identifying the causes of constipation through taking a focused history, conducting physical examinations, and performing laboratory tests.
  • Chapter 12, “Diarrhea” (pp. 133-147)In this chapter, the authors focus on diagnosing the cause of diarrhea. The chapter includes questions to ask patients about the condition, things to look for in a physical exam, and suggested laboratory or diagnostic studies to perform.
  • Chapter 29, “Rectal Pain, Itching, and Bleeding” (pp. 344-356)This chapter focuses on how to diagnose rectal bleeding and pain. It includes a table containing possible diagnoses, the accompanying physical signs, and suggested diagnostic studies.

Sullivan, D. D. (2019). Guide to clinical documentation (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

  • Chapter 10, “Admitting a Patient to the Hospital” (pp. 217-238)

Note: Download this Adult Examination Checklist and Abdomen Physical Exam Summary to use during your practice abdominal examination.

Seidel, H. M., Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2011). Adult examination checklist: Guide for abdominal assessment. In Mosby’s guide to physical examination (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

This Adult Examination Checklist: Guide for Abdominal Assessment was published as a companion to Seidel’s guide to physical examination (8th ed.), by Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., & Flynn, J. A. Copyright Elsevier (2015). From

Seidel, H. M., Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2011). Physical exam summary: Abdomen. In Mosby’s guide to physical examination (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

This Abdomen Physical Exam Summary was published as a companion to Seidel’s guide to physical examination (8th ed.), by Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., & Flynn, J. A. Copyright Elsevier (2015). From

University of Virginia. (n.d.). Introduction to radiology: An online interactive tutorial. Retrieved from This website provides an introduction to radiology and imaging. For this week, focus on gastrointestinal radiology.

Required Media

Online media for Seidel’s Guide to Physical Examination

It is highly recommended that you access and view the resources included with the course text, Seidel’s Guide to Physical Examination. Focus on the videos and animations in Chapters 7, and 17 that relate to the assessment of the abdomen and gastrointestinal system. Refer to Week 4 for access instructions on NURS 6512 Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System.

Optional Resources- Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System

LeBlond, R. F., Brown, D. D., & DeGowin, R. L. (2014). DeGowin’s diagnostic examination (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Medical.

    • Chapter 9, “The Abdomen, Perineum, Anus, and Rectosigmoid” (pp. 445–527)This chapter explores the health assessment processes for the abdomen, perineum, anus, and rectosigmoid. This chapter also examines the symptoms of many conditions in these areas.
  • Chapter 10, “The Urinary System” (pp. 528–540)In this chapter, the authors provide an overview of the physiology of the urinary system. The chapter also lists symptoms and conditions of the urinary system. NURS 6512 Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System.

A woman went to the emergency room for severe abdominal cramping. She was diagnosed with diverticulitis; however, as a precaution, the doctor ordered a CAT scan. The CAT scan revealed a growth on the pancreas, which turned out to be pancreatic cancer—the real cause of the cramping.

Because of a high potential for misdiagnosis, determining the precise cause of abdominal pain can be time-consuming and challenging. By analyzing case studies of abnormal abdominal findings, nurses can prepare themselves to better diagnose conditions in the abdomen.

In this assignment, you will analyze a SOAP note case study that describes abnormal findings in patients seen in a clinical setting. You will consider what history should be collected from the patients, as well as which physical exams and diagnostic tests should be conducted. You will also formulate a differential diagnosis with several possible conditions.

Abdominal Assessment


  • CC: “My stomach hurts, I have diarrhea and nothing seems to help.”
  • HPI: JR, 47 yo WM, complains of having generalized abdominal pain that started 3 days ago. He has not taken any medications because he did not know what to take. He states the pain is a 5/10 today but has been as much as 9/10 when it first started. He has been able to eat, with some nausea afterwards.
  • PMH: HTN, Diabetes, hx of GI bleed 4 years ago
  • Medications: Lisinopril 10mg, Amlodipine 5 mg, Metformin 1000mg, Lantus 10 units qhs
  • Allergies: NKDA
  • FH: No hx of colon cancer, Father hx DMT2, HTN, Mother hx HTN, Hyperlipidemia, GERD
  • Social: Denies tobacco use; occasional etoh, married, 3 children (1 girl, 2 boys)


  • VS: Temp 99.8; BP 160/86; RR 16; P 92; HT 5’10”; WT 248lbs
  • Heart: RRR, no murmurs
  • Lungs: CTA, chest wall symmetrical
  • Skin: Intact without lesions, no urticaria
  • Abd: soft, hyperctive bowel sounds, pos pain in the LLQ
  • Diagnostics: None
  • NURS 6512 Week 6: Assessment of the Abdomen and Gastrointestinal System


  • Left lower quadrant pain
  • Gastroenteritis
  • PLAN: This section is not required for the assignments in this course (NURS 6512) but will be required for future courses.

To prepare:

With regard to the SOAP note case study provided:

  • Review this week’s Learning Resources, and consider the insights they provide about the case study.
  • Consider what history would be necessary to collect from the patient in the case study.
  • Consider what physical exams and diagnostic tests would be appropriate to gather more information about the patient’s condition. How would the results be used to make a diagnosis?
  • Identify at least five possible conditions that may be considered in a differential diagnosis for the patient.

To complete:

  1. Analyze the subjective portion of the note. List additional information that should be included in the documentation.
  2. Analyze the objective portion of the note. List additional information that should be included in the documentation.
  3. Is the assessment supported by the subjective and objective information? Why or Why not?
  4. What diagnostic tests would be appropriate for this case and how would the results be used to make a diagnosis?
  5. Would you reject/accept the current diagnosis? Why or why not? Identify three possible conditions that may be considered as a differential diagnosis for this patient. Explain your reasoning using at least 3 different references from current evidence based literature.

A Sample Answer For the Assignment: NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

Title: NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

The SOAP note concerns a 47-year-old white man with chief complaints of abdominal pain and diarrhea. He has had generalized abdominal pain for three days but has not taken any meds to relieve the pain. He reports that the pain was initially at 9/10 but has reduced to 5/10, and he cannot eat due to ensuing nausea. His medical history is positive for  

hypertension, DM, and GI bleeding. GI exam findings include a soft abdomen, hyperactive bowel sounds, and LLQ pain. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the SOAP note, identify appropriate diagnostic tests, and discuss likely diagnoses. 

Subjective Portion 

The SOAP note’s HPI describes the abdominal pain, including the onset, location, associated symptoms, and severity of pain. Nevertheless, the HPI should have given an additional description of the abdominal pain, particularly the duration of the abdominal pain, timing (before, during, or after meals), and frequency. In addition, the characteristics of the abdominal pain should be included describing if the pain is sharp, crampy, dull, colicky, diffuses, constant, or radiating (Sokic-Milutinovic et al., 2022). In addition, the HPI should have included the exacerbating and alleviating factors for the abdominal pain and to what level the alleviating factors relieve the pain. Furthermore, the HPI has described only the abdominal pain leaving out diarrhea. It should describe diarrhea, including the onset, timing, frequency, characteristics of the stools (watery, mucoid, bloody, greasy, or malodorous), and relieving and aggravating factors.  

The subjective part should have included the patient’s immunization status with a focus on the last Tdap, Influenza, and COVID shots and surgical history. The social history has scanty information and should have included the patient’s education level, occupation, current living status, hobbies, exercise and sleep patterns, dietary habits, and health promotion interventions (Gossman et al., 2020). Lastly, a review of systems (ROS) is mandatory for a SOAP note. Thus, the SOAP note should have a ROS that indicates the pertinent positive and negative symptoms in each body system, which helps identify other symptoms the patient has not reported in the HPI.  

Objective Portion 

The objective part misses critical information like the findings from the general assessment of the patient, which should include the client’s general appearance, personal hygiene, grooming, dressing, speech, body language, and attitude towards the clinician. In addition, findings from a detailed abdominal exam should have been provided. For instance, it should have inspection findings, including the abdomen’s pigmentation, respiratory movements, symmetry, contour, and presence of scars. Additional auscultation findings that should be indicated include the presence of friction ribs, vascular sounds, and venous hum. It should also have exam findings from palpation and percussion, including abdominal tenderness, masses, organomegaly, guarding, or rebound tenderness (Sokic-Milutinovic et al., 2022). Besides, the liver span and spleen position should be indicated.  


The assessment findings identified in the SOAP note are Left lower quadrant (LLQ) pain and gastroenteritis (GE). LLQ pain is supported by subjective findings of abdominal pain and LLQ tenderness on exam. GE is consistent with subjective data of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea and objective data of low-grade fever of 99.8 and hyperactive bowel sounds, which are classic symptoms. 

Diagnostic Tests 

The appropriate diagnostic tests for this patient are stool culture, complete blood count (CBC), and abdominal ultrasound. A stool culture is crucial to look for ova and cyst, which will help establish the causative agent for diarrhea and guide the treatment plan. Based on the WBC count, the CBC will establish if the patient has an infection and if the infection is bacterial or viral (Sokic-Milutinovic et al., 2022). The abdominal ultrasound will be used to visualize abdominal organs and identify if there is inflammation that could be contributing to the patient’s GI symptoms.  

Differential Diagnoses 

I would accept the GE diagnosis because it is consistent with the patient’s clinical features of diarrhea, generalized abdominal pain, nausea, low-grade fever, hyperactive bowel sounds, and abdominal tenderness. Nevertheless, I would reject LLQ pain as a diagnosis because it is a physical exam finding and does not fit the description of a medical diagnosis. The likely diagnoses for this case are: 

Acute Viral Gastroenteritis  

Viral GE is an acute, self-limiting diarrheal disease caused by viruses. The common causative viruses are rotavirus, norovirus, enteric adenovirus, and astroviruses. Clinical manifestations include anorexia, nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain/tenderness (mild to moderate), low-grade fever, dehydration, and hyperactive bowel sounds (Orenstein, 2020). Acute Viral GE is a presumptive diagnosis due to the patient’s clinical manifestations of nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, mild fever, abdominal tenderness on palpation, and hyperactive bowel sounds. 

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) 

UC is a chronic inflammatory and ulcerative GI disorder that occurs in the colonic mucosa and is characterized by bloody diarrhea. Clinical symptoms include mild lower abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and bloody mucoid stools. Systemic manifestations include anorexia, nausea, fever, malaise, anemia, and weight loss (Porter et al., 2020). The patient’s positive findings of nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and mild fever, as well as a history of GI bleeding, makes UC a likely diagnosis.  

Colonic Diverticulitis 

Diverticulitis presents with inflammation of a diverticulum with the presence or absence of infection. Abdominal pain is the primary symptom of colonic diverticulitis. Patients present with LLQ abdominal pain and tenderness, which can sometimes be suprapubic and often have a palpable sigmoid. The abdominal pain is usually accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, and occasionally urinary symptoms (Swanson & Strate, 2018). Peritoneal signs like rebound and guarding can occur, especially with abscess or perforation. Colonic diverticulitis is a probable diagnosis based on nausea, mild fever, and LLQ pain findings.  


The HPI in the objective portion should have described the characteristics of the abdominal pain and stated the onset, frequency, characteristics, and timing of diarrhea. A ROS should also be included with the patient’s positive and negative symptoms. The objective part should have detailed physical exam findings from a detailed abdominal exam. Diagnostic tests should include stool culture, CBC, and abdominal U/S. The likely diagnoses are Vital GE, Ulcerative colitis, and colonic diverticulitis. 



Gossman, W., Lew, V., & Ghassemzadeh, S. (2020). SOAP Notes. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing. 

Orenstein, R. (2020). Gastroenteritis, Viral. Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology, 652–657. 

Porter, R. J., Kalla, R., & Ho, G. T. (2020). Ulcerative colitis: Recent advances in the understanding of disease pathogenesis. F1000Research, 9, F1000 Faculty Rev-294. 

Sokic-Milutinovic, A., Pavlovic-Markovic, A., Tomasevic, R. S., & Lukic, S. (2022). Diarrhea as a clinical challenge: General practitioner approach. Digestive Diseases, 40(3), 282-289. 

Swanson, S. M., & Strate, L. L. (2018). Acute colonic diverticulitis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 168(9), ITC65–ITC80. 

A Sample Answer 2 For the Assignment: NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

Title: NURS 6512 Week 6 Assignment 1: Lab Assignment: Assessing the Abdomen

Gastrointestinal disorders are common encounters in nursing practice with considerable public health impacts. Nurses and other healthcare providers should perform comprehensive history taking and physical examinations to develop accurate diagnoses and care plans. Therefore, this essay examines J.R.’s case study. J.R. presented to the hospital with complaints of having generalized abdominal pain that began three days ago. He has been experiencing diarrhea that has been unresponsive to any treatments adopted by the patient.  The essay analyzes additional subjective and objective information that should be obtained from the client if subjective and objective data supports the assessment, diagnostic tests, and possible differential diagnoses.

Additional Subjective Information

Additional subjective information should be obtained to guide the development of an accurate diagnosis. First, information about the things that might have led to the abdominal pain should be obtained. This includes data such as diet, alcohol consumption, or possible trauma that could have led to the symptoms. Information about previous experiences of stomach pain should also be obtained. A previous history of stomach pain will help the nurse determine if the condition is acute or chronic. In addition, the nurse should determine if JR experienced a similar pain when he experienced gastrointestinal bleeding four years ago. Information on previous treatments for the GI bleed should be obtained to guide the current management. The nurse should also seek information about the characteristics of stomach pain (Maret-Ouda et al., 2020). For example, information on whether the pain radiates elsewhere should have been obtained to rule out causes such as pancreatitis.

Information about the character of the diarrhea should also be obtained. Information such as blood-stained diarrhea would help the nurse to develop a potential diagnosis of gastrointestinal tract bleeding. Associated symptoms such as vomiting should also be obtained. This is important because symptoms such as projectile vomiting will indicate potential problems such as pyloric stenosis. Information about changes in the client’s weight over the past few months should also be obtained. Unintentional weight loss could indicate other health problems such as cancer of the gastrointestinal system. Information on changes in appetite should also be sought. Early satiety could indicate problems such as hypertrophic pyloric stenosis. The nurse should also obtain information about the factors that relieve, precipitate, or worsen the stomach pain. For example, a diagnosis of peptic ulcer disease will be made if the symptoms worsen 15-30 minutes after eating (Sverdén et al., 2019). A diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease will be made if the symptoms worsen when JR lies down and improves with sitting upright.

Additional Objective Information

The nurse should obtain additional objective information from JR to make an informed diagnosis and develop a patient-centered care plan. Firstly, information about JR’s general appearance should be documented. This includes information such as his grooming, weight, alertness, and orientation. A comprehensive review of all the body systems should have also been done. For example, the assessment of the respiratory system is inadequate. Information such as the presence or absence of nasal flaring, wheezes, crackles, rhonchi, and peripheral or central cyanosis should have been documented (Katz et al., 2022). The assessment of the cardiovascular system should have extended to information such as the presence or absence of jugular venous distention or peripheral edema.

The information in the assessment of the gastrointestinal system is inadequate. Additional information such as the presence or absence of abdominal scars, organomegaly, pulsations, ascites, and visible blood vessels should have been documented. This is important because information such as palpable abdominal pulsations would indicate aortic abdominal aneurysm. Information about any abdominal pain on palpation and the location of the pain should have also been obtained and pain rating on a pain rating scale.  The nurse should have also assessed the skin for capillary refill, turgor, cyanosis, and edema (Haque & Bhargava, 2022). Low capillary refill and poor skin turgor could indicate problems with circulation and hydration.

If Subjective and Objective Data Supports the Assessment

Subjective assessment data is the information a patient gives about their health problems. Subjective data supports JR’s assessment. Some of the subjective data include his chief complaints, history of the chief complaints, past medical history, medications, allergies, family, and social history. Objective data refers to the information that the healthcare provider obtains during assessment. Healthcare providers use methods such as inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation to obtain objective data (Malik et al., 2023). Objective data supports JR’s case study. Examples of objective data in the case study include vital signs and findings reported in the assessment of the heart, lungs, skin, and abdomen.

Appropriate Diagnostic Tests

Some diagnostic tests should be performed to develop JR’s accurate diagnosis. An occult stool test should be performed to determine if the client’s problem is due to an infection and rule out GI bleeding. A complete blood count test would also be performed to rule out an infection. Stool culture might also be performed to determine the accurate cause of JR’s problem. Antigen tests might also be performed to detect antigens associated with parasites and viruses that cause gastrointestinal problems such as gastroenteritis. A fecal fat test might be needed to rule out malabsorption problems in the client (Chen et al., 2021). Radiological investigations such as abdominal ultrasound and x-rays might be performed to rule out causes such as appendicitis and carcinoma.

Accepting or Rejecting the Current Diagnosis

I will accept the current diagnosis of left lower quadrant pain. The objective findings reveal the presence of left lower quadrant pain. This provisional diagnosis should guide the additional investigations performed to develop an accurate diagnosis. I also accept gastroenteritis as the other diagnosis for JR. Patients with gastroenteritis experience symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite (Chen et al., 2021).  JR has these symptoms; hence, gastroenteritis is his other provisional diagnosis.

Three Possible Differential Diagnoses

Diverticulitis is the first differential diagnosis that should be considered for JR. Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the sigmoid colon that causes left lower quadrant pain. The pain worsens when a patient eats. The accompanying symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, and the passage of bloodstained stool (Sugi et al., 2020). Diagnostic investigations will rule in or out diverticulitis as the cause of JR’s problems.

The second differential diagnosis that should be considered for JR is peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcer disease is a condition that develops from the destruction of the stomach wall lining by pepsin or gastric acid secretion. It affects the distal duodenum, lower esophagus, or jejunum. Patients often experience epigastric pain 15-30 minutes after a meal. A diagnosis of duodenal ulcer disease is made if the patient reports epigastric pain 2-3 hours after a meal (Malik et al., 2023; Sverdén et al., 2019). The additional symptoms that patients with peptic ulcer disease experience include bloating, abdominal fullness, nausea and vomiting, hematemesis, melena, and changes in body weight.

Gastritis is the last differential diagnosis that should be considered for JR. Gastritis develops from the inflammation of the gastric mucosa. Factors such as infections, smoking, taking too much alcohol, prolonged use of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and immune-mediated reactions might cause gastritis. Patients who are affected by gastritis experience a range of symptoms. They include stomach pain or upset, hiccups, belching, abdominal bleeding, nausea and vomiting, feeling of fullness, loss of appetite, and blood in stool or vomitus (Maret-Ouda et al., 2020; Rugge et al., 2020). Therefore, additional investigations should be performed to develop JR’s accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


In summary, JR’s subjective and objective data is inadequate. Additional subjective and objective data should be obtained to guide the treatment plan. Subjective and objective data supports JR’s assessment. I accept the current diagnosis of left lower quadrant pain and gastroenteritis.. Different diagnostic investigations should be performed to rule in and out different differential diagnoses in the case study. The three differential diagnoses that should be considered for JR include gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, and diverticulitis.




Chen, P. H., Anderson, L., Zhang, K., & Weiss, G. A. (2021). Eosinophilic Gastritis/Gastroenteritis. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 23(8), 13.

Haque, K., & Bhargava, P. (2022). Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. American Family Physician, 106(2), 165–172.

Katz, P. O., Dunbar, K. B., Schnoll-Sussman, F. H., Greer, K. B., Yadlapati, R., & Spechler, S. J. (2022). ACG Clinical Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 117(1), 27–56.

Malik, T. F., Gnanapandithan, K., & Singh, K. (2023). Peptic Ulcer Disease. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

Maret-Ouda, J., Markar, S. R., & Lagergren, J. (2020). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Review. JAMA, 324(24), 2536–2547.

Rugge, M., Sugano, K., Sacchi, D., Sbaraglia, M., & Malfertheiner, P. (2020). Gastritis: An Update in 2020. Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology, 18(3), 488–503.

Sugi, M. D., Sun, D. C., Menias, C. O., Prabhu, V., & Choi, H. H. (2020). Acute diverticulitis: Key features for guiding clinical management. European Journal of Radiology, 128, 109026.

Sverdén, E., Agréus, L., Dunn, J. M., & Lagergren, J. (2019). Peptic ulcer disease. BMJ, 367, l5495.