How to Perform Health Assessment of the Abdomen


Physical or health assessment of a patients abdomen is done to determine the state of his gastrointestinal tract. It involves inspecting, listening to, percussing and palpating his abdomen and noting the responses acquired from these activities.

  • Prepare your patient for an abdominal assessment. Ask him to empty his bladder first. Then drape your patient in such a way that all parts of his body will be covered with the exception of his abdomen. Position your patient on an examination table with his hands by his sides and warm your hands and stethoscope..

  • Inspect your patients abdomen. Look for bumps, bulges or masses on the stomach area. Check the color of the abdominal skin and look for wounds. Take note of wavelike motions on the surface of your patients abdomen as it may indicate bowel obstruction. Check also for distension by looking for a bulge in your patients bladder just above the pubic area.

  • Auscultate or listen to your patients bowels sounds with your stethoscope. Do this before percussing or palpating your patients abdomen to avoid false results. Begin by placing your stethoscope in the right lower quadrant of your patients abdomen, then the upper right, upper left and lower left. Allow up to 5 minutes to hear any bowel sounds and take note of whether they are normal, hyperactive or hypoactive.

  • Percuss and palpate your patients abdomen. Percuss your patients abdomen to elicit sounds that tell you were his organs are located and if his bladder is full or not. Palpate his abdomen gently for pain, masses, fluid accumulation and size and position of his organs.

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