Meaning of Physical Examination

What is physical examination:

The physical examination is the procedure applied by a doctor in consultation to determine if the patient has a health problem. This procedure is also known as a "physical exam."

Medical consultations usually have a protocol. First, the doctor will need to conduct an interview with the patient. It will provide information about your symptoms and personal and family medical history. In addition, the doctor will evaluate the level of collaboration, the state of consciousness, the attitude, the hydration and the nutritional state of the patient.

After the interview, the doctor will proceed to the physical examination. In this process, the doctor will evaluate vital signs, such as fever, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, and heart rate, among others.

Stages of physical examination

During the physical examination, the treating physician applies five elementary techniques to corroborate symptoms and make a diagnosis. These techniques are:

  • Visual inspection, which allows the doctor to verify if there is any visible physical damage, such as the appearance of the eyeballs, the appearance of the skin, injuries, deviations or deformations, etc.
  • Palpation, which allows to verify the body state by means of touch. The doctor looks for bumps, areas of tension, stiffness, and other elements.
  • Auscultation, which consists of listening to body sounds, such as the heartbeat and characteristics of breathing.
  • Percussion, a process in which the doctor will hit some parts of the body with his hands in search of unusual sounds. For example, percuss the abdominal area for intestinal obstructions.
  • Olfaction, which consists of looking for unusual odors that may reveal infectious processes.

See also Diagnosis.

Doctors can also use complementary tools and techniques. For example, hammers to measure reflections, light sources to observe nasal or auditory cavities, blood pressure monitor to measure blood pressure, etc.

Once the physical examination is completed, the doctor will record all the information obtained, both in the interview and in the examination. This record is known by the name of medical history.

Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will assign a treatment in a medical prescription or prescription, where he or she can recommend medications and eating and exercise routines. In the event that the physical examination is not sufficient, the physician may request additional tests.

See also Physical health.

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