Ideally, the patient should be examined in the sitting position. Position the patient before you begin your “Examination Proper”. Examination of respiratory system consists of all 4 conventional steps – namely inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation preceded by relevant general examination.
But these 4 steps can (should) be done both anteriorly and posteriorly. Usually, the examiner will guide you at the exam from which side you may examine the patient due to time limitation. Most of the physical signs are easily detected when the examination is done from posterior aspect. Hence, unless the examiner specifically asked, always begin your examination from the posterior aspect and keep in mind to examine the patient anteriorly if the time permits.
Suspect an upper lobe pathology if an examiner commands you “You may examine anteriorly!”, he might be giving you a clue to the diagnosis.Upper lobe pathologies are easier to detect when the patient is examined anteriorly.
Carefully look for the shape of the chest and chest deformities. For this you have to inspect the patient from both anteriorly and posteriorly. Remember the normal chest is elliptical and bilaterally symmetrical in shape.
Look for surgical scars. Never miss it! If you detect the lobectomy or pneumonectomy scar, you have your case there.
Usual respiratory pattern in adults is thoracic. Abdominal type of breathing is seen in children. But when respiratory muscles are weak, adults may show predominant abdominal type of respiration.
Approximately try to count the respiratory rate. You will get it with experience. You are not going to count this for one minute, Not in your exam! The normal respiratory rate in an adult is 12-20 breaths per minute.
You can get an idea of chest wall movement (Chest expansion) in inspection. Look whether there is a reduction in chest movements in one side or both sides asking the patient to take a deep breath in and out. You can confirm your findings at the next step, “Palpation”.
Chest expansion should be assessed in all three zones (Apex, Upper, Lower) of thorax both posteriorly (and anteriorly Ideally).
Have the patient seated erect with arms by the side. Stand directly behind the patient. First, gently grab the lower hemithorax on either side of the chest (with an equal amount of pressure) and bring your thumbs close together until they approximate each other in the midline. Have the patient slowly take a deep breath and expire. Assess the “Degree” of chest expansion & “Symmetry” of movement of each hemithorax simultaneously. Then repeat the technique over the upper chest and the apex.
Then if the time permits, repeat the whole process anteriorly, at least the apex. Expansion of the apex of the chest best felt anteriorly!
Normal Chest Expansion is 2-5 inches and chest wall should move symmetrically. That is the distance between the two thumbs should be at least 5 cm and both thumbs should be equal distance apart from the midline.
Half the times, your examination may be normal up to this point of the examination. But If you find unilateral reduction in chest expansion, then you know the abnormal side and you can significantly narrow down your possible diagnosis ie. Pleural effusion, Lung collapse, Pneumothorax, Unilateral Lung Fibrosis!You can further narrow down the possibilities by next step of palpation (Tracheal deviation & Mediastinal Shift) which is explained below.
Have the patient seated and position yourself directly in front of the patient and look for any deviation of the trachea. Keep your index and ring fingers of the right hand on the sternal heads of each sternocleidomastoid and then gently palpate the trachea above downwards with your middle finger along tracheal rings feeling its direction.
Then compare the empty space on both sides of the trachea. If the empty space is more on one side, it means the trachea is deviated to the opposite side. Normally there is a slight deviation of the trachea to the right side.
Trail’s Sign – It is the prominence of clavicular head of sternocleidomastoid muscle of the side in which trachea is deviated.Try to identify tracheal deviation before you even touch it!
Look for deviation of the apex beat indicative of a “mediastinal shift” when there is a tracheal deviation.
It is the palpation of the vibrations transmitted on to the chest wall (from larynx through the lungs).
To look for vocal fremitus palpate each side of the chest wall using the ulnar border of your hand at least at three levels (Upper, Middle, Lower zones).
Ask the patient to say “ninety-nine” and feel the vibrations on the chest wall. Always compare both sides. Ideally, the sequence should be repeated anteriorly if the time permits.
You can confirm your findings of vocal fremitus at the auscultation when you do “Vocal Resonance”.Vocal Resonance is the Better of the Two
Have the patient seated and approach from behind. Keep your middle finger of the left hand firmly over the intercostal spaces parallel to the ribs, with other four fingers lifted above, not touching the thoracic wall.
Then percuss (strike) the centre of the middle phalanx of the middle finger perpendicularly. Striking movement should be at the wrist joint, not the elbow. Striking finger should be taken off immediately to prevent dampening of the percussion note. Clavicles are percussed directly on the bone.
Always percuss bilaterally, comparing one side with the other. Always percuss from resonant area to dull (above downwards). Remember to percuss all three zones of bilateral chest wall, and ideally the whole process should be repeated anteriorly if time permits.
“Striking a surface over an air-filled cavity will produce a resonant sound, whereas striking a surface over a fluid / tissue filled cavity will produce a dull sound” That’s it!The Physcis Behind the Percussion
This is done to “exclude elevated hemidiaphragm causing basal dullness” from other causes like Lung Fibrosis, Basal Pneumonia, Lung Collapse or even Pleural effusion.
Percuss along the midclavicular line from the 2nd intercostal space downwards. Normally upper level of the liver dullness is met at 5th intercostal space in right side. If you encounter basal dullness, ask the patient to take a deep breath in, and percuss again. If the percussion note becomes resonant (being dull previously), it is due to elevated hemidiaphragm.
Usually with the diaphragm of the stethoscope firmly placed over the chest wall. Examine all three zones, apices in both lung fields. Make sure the patient is breathing in and out (preferably through the mouth). Auscultate a bit laterally (avoid the medial 3cm from midline).
Carefully try to assess one by one, concentrate only on the specific component you are looking for.
Keep the diaphragm of your stethoscope on chest wall and ask the patient to say “ninety nine”. Repeat this process in all three lung zones bilaterally, both anteriorly and posteriorly. The findings and interpretations are similar to vocal fremitus, but this is more sensitive. (Hence some examiners might ask you to skip Vocal Fremitus in percussion).
Normal breath sounds are low pitch vesicular in nature. There should be no added sounds. P2 should be of normal intensity.
Whishpering Pectoriloquy – Useful techninque to confirm Lung Consolidation if you heard a patch of bronchial breathing.You can confirm or exclude the presence of consolidation on dull patches you found during the Percussion
If you are not sure, ask the patient to cough; crepitations & ronchi may disappear, but not the pleural rub!Confirming a Pleural Rub
Most of the time students do miss this! Always exclude pulmonary hypertension secondary to chronic lung disease. To do this you just need to put your stethoscope over the pulmonary area and listen whether the second heart sound is louder or not. Be smart! Show the examiner that you are looking for possible complications of lung pathology.
If the second heart sound is loud, you may further extend your examination to look for signs of right heart failure to impress the examiner. If so, look for parasternal heave and tender hepatomegaly if time permits.
This average build patient is not breathless at rest. He is not plethoric or cyanosed and he has no finger clubbing, tar stains or lymphadenopathy. There is no ankle oedema.
There are no chest deformities or surgical scars. Chest expansion is normal bilaterally in all three zones. Trachea is not deviated and percussion note is resonant throughout both lung fields. Vocal fremitus and vocal resonance are normal. The breath sounds were heard in normal intensity and there were no added sounds over both lung fields. The pulmonary component of the second heart is not loud.
So, examination of the respiratory system is unremarkable in this patient.
Facial nerve palsy can be either UMN type or LMN type. It can be unilateral or bilateral. The most common scenario would be LMN type unilateral facial nerve palsy (Bell’s Palsy) you would encounter at the exam. LMN lesions affect both upper & lower parts of the face in contrast to the UMN lesions.
You should be thanking your destiny if you got Bell’s palsy as one of your cases at the exam because it is one of the easiest short cases you would ever get at the neurology station. Though it is a pretty straightforward case, just diagnosing Lower Motor Neuron (LMN) type of facial nerve palsy may not be enough for you to acquire higher marks. Always think about the possible aetiology & try to localize the site of the lesion whenever possible once you detect LMN type of facial nerve palsy.
The general instruction would be to “Examine the lower motor crannial erves” or “Examine the motor cranial nerves”. Always follow the instruction of the examiner.
This patient is having left side facial asymmetry involving both upper and lower parts of the face. There is absent blinking of the left eye. The mouth is deviated to the right side when an attempt to clench the teeth. There is reduced facial expressions with widened palpebral fissure and flattened nasolabial fold on the left side.
The parotid gland is not enlarged or tender. There is a vesicular rash involving the left external auditory meatus and soft palate. Other cranial nerve examination is unremarkable.
He is having left LMN type Facial nerve palsy secondary to reactivation of Varicella-Zoster Virus; that is Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome.
You do not have to be an expert in order to diagnose a patient with Chronic Liver Cell Disease (CLCD), as it is too obvious even with inspection alone. But you might be under-prepared for this case, just because you would not expect such easy cases at the exam settings.
So, try to memorize all the key features suggestive of CLCD and organize your presentation mentioning the important positives as well as the negatives. Always try your best to assess the aetiology and the complications of CLCD during your examination.
The general examination of CLCD is vital and you can get many important positive and negative findings for the diagnosis, aetiology & complications. There are two ways you can look into this step of examination. Easier way for a beginner would be, examining region by region remembering the clinical features you have to look for in each region.
But the smarter (and more advanced) way is mind mapping the clinical findings into diagnosis, aetiology & complications (Refer the Flashcard).
In patients with Cirrhosis liver is usually shrunken. So, you won’t be expecting the liver to be enlarged. But what if the liver is palpable? Then suspect Hepatoma, Alcoholic CLCD & NAFLD.IMPORTANT FACT TO BE REMEMBERED
This patient has generalized body swelling with gross abdominal distention and does not appear to be drowsy. He is icteric and anaemic. He has got no Xanthelasma or KF rings. The patient is having parotid swelling, gynaecomastia and there are multiple spider navei located on upper chest and the back. He has got palmar erythema, finger clubbing, leukonychia and there is Dupuytren’s contracture in the right hand. He has bilateral pitting ankle oedema and there is no asterixis.
The abdomen is distended and the umbilicus is slightly inverted & retracted (smiling umbilicus). There are no surgical scars or distended superficial veins of the abdomen. There is no tenderness on superficial palpation. Liver is not palpable. There is a left hypochondrial mass 3cm from the costal margin, which moves diagonally with respiration. Its superior border is not palpable and its not ballotable. There is a notch in its anterior border. It is dull to percussion and its dullness continues with the splenic dullness with no evidence of band of resonance in between. There is moderate ascites as evidenced by shifting flank dullness; no fluid thrill. There is no splenic or liver bruits.
My diagnosis is Decompensated Chronic Liver Cell Disease (CLCD) complicated with portal hypertension probably due to heavy alcoholic abuse. He has got no evidence of SBP or Hepatic Encephalopathy
Mitral stenosis (MS) is a notoriously tricky case at the exam where most of the candidates failing to diagnose it because of the hardly audible low-pitched murmur needing the patient to be auscultated in the left lateral position. So, try to diagnose it even before you auscultate the patient!
Always suspect MS if the patient has irregularly irregular pulse indicative of atrial fibrillation (AF). Although MS patients are usually in AF, every AF is not having MS, and every MS patient is not in AF.
Mitral Valvotomy was carried out via a left lateral thoracotomy incision in the past. Although it is history now, there may be a handful of (elderly) patients who had undergone mitral valvotomy and having mitral restenosis with time. Suspect Before Auscultation!
The most important finding would be the lateral thoracotomy scar if your clinical diagnosis is MS. If the scar is present you have to present the case as “Mitral Restenosis” instead of “Mitral Stenosis”.
Elevated JVP – Indicative of Pulmonary Hypertension and RHF (Complication).
If JVP elevated, you should carefully look for other signs of PHTN & RHF later on your examination & mention them in your presentation.
This patient is not having peripheral stigmata of infective endocarditis. There is no malar flush or ankle edema. The pulse irregularly irregular, the volume is normal and normal in character. His BP is (Valve) & JVP is not elevated.
On precordial examination, there are no surgical scars suggestive of previous valve replacement or mitral valvotomy. The apex beat is undisplaced & tapping in character. P2 is not palpable and there are no thrills or parasternal heave. The first heart sound is loud whereas the pulmonary component of the second heart sound is of normal intensity. There is an opening snap in early diastole followed by a grade 2 mid-diastolic rumbling type murmur best heard at the apex which increases in intensity with expiration while patient is in left lateral position. Bilateral lung bases are clear & there is no tender hepatomegaly.
This patient is not having peripheral stigmata of infective endocarditis. There is malar flush and ankle oedema. The pulse irregularly irregular, volume is low and normal in character. His BP is 110/90 mmHg & JVP is elevated.
On precordial examination, there is a lateral thoracotomy scar. The apex beat is undisplaced & tapping in character. P2 is palpable and there is a parasternal heave, but no diastolic thrills palpable. The first heart sound is loud as well as the pulmonary component of the second heart sound. There is grade 2 mid-diastolic rumbling type murmur best heard at the apex which increases in intensity with expiration while the patient is in the left lateral position. Opening snap is not heard. In addition, there is a pansystolic murmur best heard at LLSB (tricuspid area) and an early diastolic murmur best heard at the Pulmonary area, both are louder in inspiration. There are fine crepitations on both lung fields & tender hepatomegaly.
So, this patient has undergone mitral valvotomy in the past and now having severe Mitral restenosis and associated Atrial Fibrillation with evidence of Pulmonary Hypertension leading to congestive cardiac failure. There is functional tricuspid regurgitation & Graham-Steel murmur of Pulmonary regurgitation due to the pressure overload secondary to severe PHTN. The mitral valve leaflets are clinically immobile & calcified.
Thyroid examination or the examination of a goiter commonly encountered at Surgical OSCE stations.
Firstly, greet the patient and take consent. Make sure you have enough space behind the patient’s chair before proceeding with the examination.
This patient is having a lump in the anteroinferior aspect of the neck which moves up with deglutition. There are no visible surgical scars in the neck or dilated neck veins and Pemberton’s sign is negative.
The lump is firm in consistency and its surface is nodular with a prominent nodule in the right upper lobe. There is no cervical lymphadenopathy. Its lower border can be felt, trachea is deviated to the left side and the right carotid pulse is deviated posterolaterally. There is no bruit. She is clinically euthyroid and there are no thyroid eye signs.
So, my probable diagnosis is a clinically euthyroid longstanding multinodular goiter (MNG) without retrosternal extension. I would like to investigate her with a thyroid profile, USS neck and FNAC of the prominent nodule to decide on further management
1. Simple colloid goiter.
3. Grave’s disease.
1. Prominent nodule of an MNG.
2. Hemorrhage into a colloid cyst.
3. Thyroid adenoma.
4. Thyroid carcinoma.
5. Foci of thyroiditis.
Thyroid lobectomy and look for the histology to decide on further management. If the histology is malignant, the other lobe is also removed later.
Over the right upper lobe laterally while the patient is holding the breath.
It indicates the increased vascularity of the gland (hyperdynamic circulation) – seen in Grave’s disease.
1. Nocturnal dyspnea and cough.
2. Recent onset dysphagia.
3. Deviated trachea.
4. Displaced carotid pulse.
1. Distended neck veins.
2. Positive Pemberton’s sign.
3. The lower border of the goiter cannot be felt.
4. Retrosternal dullness.
1. Recent rapid enlargement.
2. Recent voice change (Hoarseness).
3. Hard in consistency.
4. Cervical lymphadenopathy.
5. Irregular margins.
6. Multiple attachments.
1. Lid lag.
2. Lid retraction.
It moves upward with deglutition as well as with the protrusion of the tongue when the jaw is fixed. Being in midline differentiates it from goiters.
1. Cosmetically unacceptable.
2. Prone to get infected.
3. May undergo malignant transformation.
Sistrunk procedure (Complete excision of the cyst and its tract together with the middle part of the body of the hyoid bone).
1. Cosmetically unacceptable (Patient’s wish).
2. Compressive symptoms.
3. Secondary thyrotoxicosis.
4. Suspected or proven malignancy.
The examination of hand for neuropathies is commonly encountered at OSCE stations. Ulnar Claw-hand is a very characteristic finding in Ulnar nerve palsy.
Firstly, introduce yourself and get consent before you proceed to examine the patient.
Given below is a targeted examination for Ulnar nerve palsy. But remember to examine other nerves (Median & Radial) to exclude multiple nerve involvement.
There is marked clawing of the ring and little fingers of the right hand and there is wasting of hypothenar eminence with dorsal guttering, but the thenar eminence is not affected. The actions of palmar and dorsal interossei are impaired and Froment’s sign is positive.
The opposition of the thumb and finger extension is intact. There is an area of sensory loss over the palmar aspect of the medial side of the hand and medial one and half fingers. There is no hypopigmented patches or ulnar nerve thickening and there are no visible scars on the forearm.
So my tentative diagnosis is right-sided Ulnar nerve palsy, probably a lower lesion.
It is the hyperextension of the metacarpophalangeal joints and flexion of proximal and distal interphalangeal joints.
It is due to paralyzed Interossei and Lumbricals with unopposed action of long flexors and extensors.
The clawing is only obvious in medial two fingers (Because lateral two Lumbricals which are supplied by the median nerve are spared).
Surprisingly, high division of the ulnar nerve (anywhere hand’s breadth above the wrist) causes less clawing than the lower lesions.
In higher lesions the innervation to the medial half of Flexor Digitorum Profundus is also lost, causing less intense flexion of the fingers.
From the degree of clawing and the area of sensory involvement (see examination).
1. Flexor Carpi Ulnaris.
2. Medial half of Flexor Digitorum Profundus.
3. All Palmar Interossei.
4. All dorsal Interossei.
5. 3rd & 4th Lumbricals.
6. Adductor Pollicis
The patient tries to compensate for the ‘lost’ adduction of the thumb by flexion of it (with Flexor Pollicis Longus which is supplied by the Median nerve).
1. Leprosy (often bilateral).
2. Laceration over the wrist or anywhere along its course.
3. Fracture medial epicondyle.
4. Dislocation of elbow.
5. Cubital tunnel syndrome.
6. Degenerative arthritis.
7. Malunion of fractures of the lower end of the humerus (Tardae Ulna nerve palsy).
1. Ulnar nerve decompression.
2. Ulnar nerve anterior transposition.
3. Medial epicondylectomy.
The examination of hand for neuropathies is commonly encountered at OSCE stations. One of the most common scenarios would be carpal tunnel syndrome.
Firstly, introduce yourself and get consent before you proceed to examine the patient.
Usually, the command is to examine the hands of the patient, but sometimes you might be given a clue like “This lady presented with tingling sensation in her hands”. The disease is often bilateral.
This patient who presented with tingling sensation of hands has bilateral thenar muscle wasting but there is no wasting of hypothenar eminence or dorsal guttering. There are no visible surgical scars, suggestive of previous carpal tunnel decompression surgery. Her opposition of the thumbs is weak and the pen touch test is positive, but there is no weakness in finger adduction or extension. There is an area of sensory loss over the palmar aspect of the lateral three and a half fingers and no other areas of sensory loss. Tinel’s test and Phalen’s test are positive. So my tentative diagnosis is bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and I would like to assess her functional disability and probable aetiology.
It is the symptomatic compression of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel where it runs deep to the flexor retinaculum (Commonest entrapment neuropathy).
Roof – Flexor retinaculum. Medial (Ulnar) – Pisiform & Hook of Hamate. Lateral (Radial) – Scaphoid and Trapezius. Palmar aspect – Transverse carpal ligament.
1. Median nerve.
2. Four tendons of Flexor Digitorum Superficialis.
3. Four tendons of Flexor Digitorum Profundus.
4. Tendon of Flexor Pollicis Longus.
5. Tendon of Flexor Carpi Ulnaris (in a separate compartment).
1. Palmar cutaneous branch of the Median nerve.
2. Ulnar nerve.
3. Ulnar artery.
4. Tendon of Palmaris Longus.
Because the palmar cutaneous branch of the Median nerve is given away proximal to the flexor retinaculum and which passes over it.
1. All thenar muscles except Adductor Pollicis.
2. Radial two Lumbricals.
Nerve conduction studies (NCS).
4. Diabetes Mellitus.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis.
1. Cervical rib.
2. Cervical spondylosis.
3. Pancoast’s syndrome.
Carpal tunnel decompression by longitudinally dividing the flexor retinaculum in full length in a bloodless field under local anesthesia.
1. Local steroid injection.
2. Splinting of the wrist at night.
3. Treating the underlying cause.
Examination of an inguinal hernia is a vital part of surgical examination methods. It is one of the most basics skills that every medical student and doctor should be aware of.
More importantly, differentiating between a femoral and inguinal hernia plays a major role here.
Firstly, introduce yourself and get consent before you proceed to examine the patient.
You will be asked to examine the groin area of a patient who is lying supine, but always remember to examine the patient in the erect position as well, at some point in your examination.
This patient has got a globular shaped lump in the right groin region. It has visible and expansile cough impulse. The hernia can be completely reduced and cannot be controlled by applying firm pressure over the deep inguinal ring. He has got no phimosis and there are no coexisting scrotal lumps. The contralateral groin is normal. So my probable diagnosis is uncomplicated right-sided direct inguinal hernia and I would like to offer him inguinal hernia repair under spinal anesthesia.
Method One – 1 cm above the femoral pulse (Easy way).
Method Two – 1 cm above the mid inguinal point (midpoint between the anterior superior iliac spine and pubic symphysis).
No. Once a hernia is repaired, its anatomy is disturbed. So a recurrence of a hernia arises from the weakest part of it. Hence it is neither direct nor indirect.
Yes, it can be.
1. Not enough pressure applied.
2. Finger is not on the deep inguinal ring.
Anyway, this method is just for crude assessment. The direct or indirect nature of a hernia is best identified during the surgery.
It comes from deep inguinal ring, passes obliquely through the inguinal canal and may continue through the superficial inguinal ring to the scrotum. It arises lateral to the inferior epigastric artery. Commonly due to persistent processes vaginalis.
It occurs as a result of weakened posterior wall of the inguinal canal and arise medial to the inferior epigastric artery. So a direct inguinal hernia is not within the spermatic code. It may descend to the scrotum though.
No importance! Management is the same for both.
Inferior epigastric artery.
As early as possible due to the high risk of strangulation.
1. Mesh repair (Gold standard).
2. Darning repair.
3. Bassini repair.
4. Shouldice repair.
Indirect inguinal herniae require both herniotomy (excision of the hernia sac) & herniorrhaphy (hernial repair) while direct inguinal herniae usually only necessitate herniorrhaphy.
1. Chronic cough.
3. Cigarette smoking.
4. Bladder outflow obstruction (BOO)
1. Acute urine retention.
2. Hematoma formation.
5. Ischemic orchitis.
Less than 1%.