First of all, one should understand the difference between the fat embolism and fat embolism syndrome (FES).
Presence of fat globules in pulmonary and peripheral circulation usually following a long bone fracture or major trauma.
A serious consequence of fat embolism producing a distinct pattern of symptoms and signs.
Following trauma, fat cells in the bone marrow enter into damaged veins and venous sinusoids → reach femoral vein and IVC → reach the pulmonary circulation → obstruct pulmonary capillaries → interstitial haemorrhages and oedema → alveolar collapse → reactive hypoxaemic vasoconstriction → pulmonary symptoms.
Some fat cells reach the systemic circulation through the patent foramen ovale → neurological and dermatological manifestations.
Fat globules in the plasma are broken down to FFA by the trauma-related hormonal mechanism → FFA intermediaries form (chylomicrons, VLDL etc.) → CRP causes chylomicrons to coalesce → larger chylomicrons go and obstruct capillaries as above.
When they go and obstruct pulmonary capillaries, FFA induce capillary endothelial damage → ARDS.
The same may happen to cerebral circulation → encephalopathy and neurological deﬁcit.
Sometimes, the capillaries of skin is obstructed, conjunctiva and oral mucosa get obstructed → thin walled capillaries rupture → petechiae.
Fat globules are proinﬂammatory and prothrombotic → they cause the generation of thrombin and ﬁbrin, platelet aggregation, consumption of coagulative factors → thrombocytopaenia, anaemia and DIC.
Since it takes time for this pathological process to occur, symptoms and signs appear within 24-72 hours of the primary injury.
At least 1 major and 4 minor should be present to the diagnosis of fat embolim syndrome.
Urine, sputum, serum (specially pulmonary arterial wedge blood sample) – fat globules
Auscultation for heart sounds is mainly done in 4 areas, namely Mitral, Tricuspid, Aortic & Pulmonic. Remember these areas do not correspond to the location of heart valves, but the areas where the cardiac sounds are best heard. Some cardiac sounds can be heard with the unaided ear (e.g. Prosthetic valve clicks).
Use your stethoscope for cardiac auscultation. Apart from the 3rd and 4th heart sounds and the mid-diastolic murmur of Mitral Stenosis, all the other heart sounds are best heard with the diaphragm of your stethoscope. You should firmly press your “diaphragm” to chest wall whereas apply only light pressure when you are auscultating with the “bell” of your stethoscope.
There is no standard order for auscultation. But starting from Apex and proceeding with Tricuspid (LLSB), Aortic & Pulmonic areas is easy to practice.
You should first concentrate only on “heart sounds” (carefully assess their intensity & splitting). Then auscultate for “added sounds” (Murmurs, Clicks, Opening Snaps & Pericardial rubs). If you hear a murmur, completely assess it with regards to its timing, duration, location, intensity, pitch, character, radiation, change with position and respiration.
Murmurs are caused by the blood flow across the valve (either from increased blood flow or defective valve).
It refers to the timing of the murmur in relation to the cardiac cycle.
It refers to the length of the murmur in relation to the phase of the cardiac cycle.
It refers to the location of the precordium where the murmur is best heard.
It refers to the loudness of the murmur and graded according to the Levine scale 1-6.
The shape refers to the change of intensity of the murmur over time as seen in phonocardiograms.
It refers to where the sound of the murmur radiates from the main location of it. As a rule of thumb, the murmur radiates in the direction of the blood flow.
It can be low, medium or high pitches. Depending on the pitch you select the chestpeice of the stethoscope you place to hear the murmur best.
It refers to unusual characteristics of the murmur which makes it unique in quality.
Right-sided murmurs are louder in inspiration (due to increased venous return) and left side murmurs are louder in expiration.
Some murmurs are best heard using some maneuvers which should be performed when you auscultate.
Usually, the opening of cardiac valves does not make any sound. Opening snap occurs due to forceful “Opening” of a stenosed valve and it is described in Mitral stenosis (Refer MS). Hence it is always pathological. It is a high-pitched sound that occurs after S2.
The pericardial rub is a pathognomic physical sign of Pericarditis. It is characterized by a “scratchy or grating” sound best appreciated along the sternal border with respiration suspended and the patient leading forward.
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.
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.
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.