The goal of a physical examination is to learn as much as possible on what’s going inside the body from the outside. By just looking at the skin colour, for example, can tell a doctor whether the heart is delivering enough oxygen to the tissues in the body.
Listening through a stethoscope can indicate how the four chambers of the heart are working together.
During a physical examination, a doctor will usually check the health of one’s heart and blood vessels using these 5 standard tests :
This very familiar test (which all of us have gone through) uses a cuff wrapped around your upper arm and inflated to create pressure. The cuff is attached to a gauge filled with mercury. By listening to your pulse when the cuff is inflated and deflated, the doctor notes when a heartbeat can no longer be heard and then when it becomes audible again. The mercury level (or digital type, a gauge or a dial display) indicates pressure when your heart beats and when it rests.
By feeling one’s pulse with finger tips, the good doctor can spot signs of irregular heart rhythm. Besides this, resting heart rate and/or number of times the heart beats per minute can also be determined wth this method.
A doctor can actually see our pulse by looking at a vein on our neck called the ‘jugular’. By observing how this vein expands as your heart beats, the doctor can estimate the pressure on the right side of your heart and spot signs that there may be extra fluid in your cardiovascular system.
Excess body fluid may accumulate in your legs if your heart is not pumping effectively. This is what is termed as Oedema and can cause visible swelling around the ankles, shins, thighs, lower back, abdomen or hands. To test for fluid retention, a doctor will press on the skin to see how far it goes in, creating an indentation.
Placing a stethoscope on the skin above the heart, a doctor can bsaically gauge how well your heart valves are opening and closing. Telltale/suspicious sounds would provide information on possible heart defects.
By listening to the chest while one is breathing in and out, a doctor can be alerted to the sounds that may indicate that extra fluid has accumulated in a person’s lungs. Placing the stethoscope over parts of person’s body, the doctor can also hear the sound of blood flowing in major vessels. A whispering sound, usually called ‘bruit’, is a sign of abnormal turbulence in blood flow.
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