Abdomen examination forms a crucial part of Medicine practical examination. It will help you in cases of Hepatomegaly, Splenomegaly, Ascites, Jaundice and other cases of abdominal region.
· Fever, loss of weight, fatigue, lassitude.
· Gastrointestinal symptoms: dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, altered bowel move-ment, jaundice.
· Renal symptoms: oliguria, history of renal failure.
· History of diabetes, hypertension.
· History of ascites, swelling of feet, mass in the abdomen.
1. Ensure the patient is lying flat (remove any extra pillows, if’ present, with the permission of the patient); the hands should lie by
the patient’s side with the abdomen exposed/’rom the inframammary region to just above the genitalia. Do not expose the
2. Begin with the hands, looking for the following signs: · Clubbing, leukonychia (white chalky nails). · Palmar erythema.
· Dupuytren’s contracture (feel for thickening of the fascia).
· Hepatic flap.
3. Examine the arms: look for arteriovenous fistula, haemodialysis catheters, spider naevi.
4. Comment on the skin: · Pigmentation. · Scratch marks.
5. Examine the following:
· Supraclavicular and cervical lymph nodes.
· Tongue for pallor.
· Eyes for anaemia, jaundice, xanthelasma.
· Upper chest and face for spider naevi.
· Axilla for hair loss, acanthosis nigricans.
· Breast for gynaecomastia.
6. Inspect the abdomen, looking for the following signs:
· Any obvious mass.
· Visible veins (check direction of flow, which is usually away from the umbilicus).
· Visible peristalsis.
· Hernial orifices (ask the patient to cough at this stage).
· Expansile pulsations of aortic aneurysm.
7. Ask the patient whether the abdomen is sore at any part.
8. Palpation: kneel on the floor or sit on a chair before you begin palpation. At all times look at the patient’s eyes to check whether
he or she winces in pain. Begin with superficial pain and begin in the least tender area. Palpate in all the quadrants (remember
that there are four quadrants).
· For mass – determine its characteristics.
· Liver (percuss for upper border using heavy percussion, for lower border using light percussion).
· Kidneys (bimanual palpation, demonstrate ballottement).
· Groin for lymph nodes.
· Check hernial orifices.
· Test for expansile pulsation of an aortic aneurysm.
10. Percuss, looking for shifting dullness (at this stage, when the patient is lying on his or her right side, seize the opportunity to
examine for a small spleen and for pitting oedema over the sacral region). Remember that abdominal percussion should follow
adequate inspection and percussion.
· Over an enlarged liver for bruit.
· Over a suspected aortic aneurysm.
· For bowel sounds.
12. Tell the examiner that you would like to perform a rectal examination and examine the external genitalia.
13. Examine the legs for oedema.