Physical examination

From Academic Kids

In medicine, physical examination, or clinical examination, is the process by which the physician investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease . It generally follows the taking of the anamnesis (medical history) - an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient. Together with it, physical examination aids in determining the correct diagnosis and devising the treatment plan. It forms part of the medical record.

Although doctors have varying approaches as to the sequence of body parts, a systematic examination starts at the head and finishes at the extremities. After the main organ systems have been investigated by inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation, specific tests may follow (such as a neurological investigation, orthopedics) or specific tests when a particular disease is suspected (e.g. eliciting Trousseau's sign in hypocalcemia).

With the clues obtained during the history and physical examination the doctor can now formulate a differential diagnosis, a list of potential causes of the symptoms. When this has happened, specific testing (or occasionally empirical therapy) generally confirms the cause, or sheds light on other, overlooked, causes.

According to recent research, a systematic physical examination at regular intervals during hospital admission can change the ultimate diagnosis in >10% of all cases.

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