NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

Sample Answer for NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen Included After Question

A male went to the emergency room for severe midepigastric abdominal pain. He was diagnosed with AAA ; however, as a precaution, the doctor ordered a CTA scan.

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 Lab Assignment, you will analyze an Episodic 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


Be sure to review the Learning Resources before completing this activity.
Click the weekly resources link to access the resources.



Review the Episodic note case study your instructor provides you for this week’s Assignment. Please see the “Course Announcements” section of the classroom for your Episodic note case study.

  • With regard to the Episodic 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 fivepossible conditions that may be considered in a differential diagnosis for the patient.


  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 three different references from current evidence-based literature.


Submit your Lab Assignment.


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A Sample Answer For the Assignment: NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

Title: NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

The abdominal compartment situated between the thorax and pelvis houses the gastrointestinal system as well as other organs such as the kidneys and spleen. The abdomen and the gastrointestinal system encounter physiologic disturbances resulting in several pathologies that range in severity from mild to life-threatening. Consequently, clinical assessment of the abdomen and gastrointestinal system is imperative to assist in prompt diagnosis of these pathologies and initiation of the necessary therapeutic approaches. This paper will explore a case study concerning LZ, a 65-year-old African American male who presents to the emergency department with a two-day history of epigastric pain radiating to the back. The subsequent paragraphs will explore subjective and objective details as well as the assessment of this case scenario.


LZ presents with a sudden onset two-day history of intermittent epigastric pain that radiates to the back. The pain has persisted despite the use of proton pump inhibitors. However, he reports an increase in severity and vomiting although there is no associated fever or diarrhea. Epigastric abdominal pain is a non-specific symptom that may indicate both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal etiologies. Consequently, further evaluation is required, and the additional history to inquire about the history of presenting illness includes the following: The character of the pain must be mentioned since some pathologies present with sharp pain while others present with a colicky pain. Similarly, it is important to ask about the timing of the pain. For instance, if it is worse at any particular time of the day. Factors aggravating and relieving the pain provide an important clue to the underlying etiology. Consequently, it is worth inquiring about the effects of a change of position on the pain. For instance, if it is worse or better in any distinct position. Similarly, noting the impact of eating on the pain is equally important.

Associated factors are crucial as most pathologies that present with epigastric pain also manifest with other symptoms. Apart from fever and diarrhea, questions regarding symptoms such as cough, chest pain, nausea, anorexia, hematuria, hematemesis, bloating, belching, nocturnal pain, indigestion, weight loss, dizziness, diaphoresis, anxiety, and alterations in bowel habits must be raised. LZ also vomited after taking his lunch. Subsequently, additional questions to ask include the number of episodes, constituents, amount, and the color of the vomitus, if other family members who ate the same meal vomited, and associated factors since vomiting is a non-specific symptom. Other parts of history that are considered significant include history of medication use particularly NSAIDs, steroids, and anticonvulsants among others, history of trauma, nutritional history including the diet and caffeine intake, and family history of similar presentation.


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Additionally, LZ has a positive history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and GERD as well as a history of alcohol and smoking. The aforementioned factors are regarded as significant risk factors underlying several gastrointestinal pathologies. Consequently, it is important to quantify both smoking and alcohol intake and determine if the blood pressure and hyperlipidemia are well controlled. Finally, it is necessary to ask if he is stressed following divorce.


The analysis of the vital signs demonstrates that LZ with a blood pressure of 91/60 mmHg is hypotensive since he is a known

NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen
NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

hypertensive patient on metoprolol. Similarly, he is overweight which carries moderate health risks. The respiratory, dermatological, and cardiovascular systems revealed no abnormalities. Nevertheless, exhaustive examination with regards to inspection, palpation, auscultation, and percussion is crucial, particularly for the chest. auscultation particularly for the chest Findings noted on the abdominal exam include tenderness in the epigastric area with guarding although no masses or rebound tenderness. Additional features that are crucial to highlight in the physical examination include the general exam which focuses on the general appearance of the patient. Similarly, a detailed abdominal examination including comprehensive findings on auscultation, inspection, palpation, and percussion is crucial since different diseases present with different abdominal signs. Finally, a neurological examination is also significant as vomiting can be a manifestation of neurologic disease.


Investigations necessary to assist in the diagnosis of his condition and rule out other causes of epigastric pain include both laboratory and radiological studies. Laboratory investigations include complete blood count with differential, urea, creatinine, and electrolytes, liver function tests, coagulation profile, serum amylase, and lipase levels, ESR/CRP, procalcitonin, blood glucose levels, LDH, lactate levels, serum triglycerides, calcium levels, stool for H. pylori antigen, and serum gastrin levels. The abovementioned laboratory tests are vital in evaluating the common causes of epigastric pain radiating to the back such as acute pancreatitis and peptic ulcer disease (Patterson et al., 2022).

On the other hand, imaging tests include ECG to rule out pericarditis, abdominal ultrasound to check for gallstones, liver or renal problems, abdominal X-ray which may reveal pneumoperitoneum in the case of a perforated ulcer, Chest X-ray and CT thorax, abdomen and Pelvis to identify possible pancreatitis and abdominal aortic aneurysm (Patterson et al., 2022). Finally, endoscopy is critical as both GERD and peptic ulcer disease are possible differentials.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute pancreatitis, and perforated peptic ulcer are among the potential diagnosis for LZ’s presentation. Abdominal aortic aneurism refers to focal dilatation of the abdominal aorta to more than 1.5 times its ordinary diameter (Sakalihasan et al., 2018). Predisposing factors for this condition include advanced age, smoking, arterial hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia which LZ possesses (Sakalihasan et al., 2018). It is usually asymptomatic but may present with epigastric pain radiating to the back and pulsatile abdominal mass. A perforated peptic ulcer is another possible cause of his symptoms. Peptic ulcer disease shares similar risk factors as GERD including alcohol use and smoking. Psychological stress probably due to divorce is also a risk factor. The patient usually presents with epigastric pain which may radiate to the back. However, if perforated, features of peritonitis such as tenderness and guarding may be evident with no palpable mass (Malik et al., 2022). Acute pancreatitis similarly manifests with severe epigastric pain radiating to the back, abdominal tenderness, guarding, and nausea and vomiting (Shah et al., 2018). Additionally, LZ has a history of alcohol use and hyperlipidemia which may precipitate pancreatitis.

The other possible differential diagnoses for his condition include causes of acute abdomen particularly those causing epigastric pain such as acute mesenteric ischemia, myocardial infarction, acute gastritis, and Mallory Weiss syndrome (Patterson et al., 2022). For instance, acute mesenteric ischemia may present with epigastric pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and signs of peritonitis while Mallory Weiss syndrome manifests with epigastric pain/back pain, hematemesis, and signs of shock. Finally, myocardial infarction at times manifests as epigastric pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting, dizziness, dyspnea with exertion, and diaphoresis (Saleh & Ambrose, 2018). This is a potential differential diagnosis as LZ has risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, smoking, alcohol use, and hyperlipidemia.


Meticulous evaluation of the abdominal and gastrointestinal systems is essential as it may point out an underlying diagnosis. Abdominal pain is a very non-specific symptom and may result from gastrointestinal or non-gastrointestinal causes. However, severe epigastric pain radiating to the back may be an indication of abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute pancreatitis, and perforated peptic ulcer.



Malik, T. F., Gnanapandithan, K., & Singh, K. (2022). Peptic ulcer disease.

Patterson, J. W., Kashyap, S., & Dominique, E. (2022). Acute Abdomen.

Sakalihasan, N., Michel, J.-B., Katsargyris, A., Kuivaniemi, H., Defraigne, J.-O., Nchimi, A., Powell, J. T., Yoshimura, K., & Hultgren, R. (2018). Abdominal aortic aneurysms. Nature Reviews. Disease Primers, 4(1), 34.

Saleh, M., & Ambrose, J. A. (2018). Understanding myocardial infarction. F1000Research, 7, 1378.

Shah, A. P., Mourad, M. M., & Bramhall, S. R. (2018). Acute pancreatitis: current perspectives on diagnosis and management. Journal of Inflammation Research, 11, 77–85.

A Sample Answer 2 For the Assignment: NURS 6512 Assessing the Abdomen

Title: NURS 6512 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. F1000Research9, 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 Diseases40(3), 282-289.

Swanson, S. M., & Strate, L. L. (2018). Acute Colonic Diverticulitis. Annals of Internal Medicine168(9), ITC65–ITC80.