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Techniques of Physical Assessment. Inspection. Always begin with inspection Inspection is the most frequently used assessment technique, but its value is often overlooked.

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  • Always begin with inspection
  • Inspection is the most frequently used assessment technique, but its value is often overlooked.
  • With inspection, you use not only your sense of sight but also your senses of hearing and smell to inspect your patient critically.
  • Do not rush the process; take your time and really look at your patient.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Be sure you have adequate lighting.
  • Be systematic, working from head to toe and noting key landmarks and normal findings.
  • Use your patient as a comparative when possible. Ask yourself, “Does it look the same on the left side as the right?”
  • Look for surface characteristics such as color, size, and shape.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Look for gross abnormalities or signs of distress. Do you notice any unusual odors or hear any unusual sounds that warrant further investigation?
  • Always view your findings in light of the patient’s growth and developmental stage and cultural background, which may influence your interpretation.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

types of inspection
Types of inspection
  • Direct inspection: involves directly looking at your patient.
  • Indirect inspection: involves using equipment to enhance visualization.
  • E.g. oto/ ophthalmoscope allows better visualization of the ears and eyes.


  • During palpation, you are using your sense of touch to collect data.
  • Palpation is used to assess every system.
  • It usually follows inspection, but both techniques are often performed simultaneously.
  • .

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

uses of palpation
Uses of palpation
  • To assess surface characteristics, such as texture consistency, and Temperature
  • To assess for masses, organs, pulsations, muscle rigidity, and chest excursion.
  • To differentiate areas of tenderness from areas of pain

Mrs.Mahdia Kony


The ball of the hand on the palm and ulnar surface is best for detecting vibration

Mrs.Mahdia Kony


The finger pads and tips are the most discriminating for detecting fine sensations, such as pulsations.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

types of palpation
Types of Palpation
  • Light palpation is applying very gentle pressure with the tips and pads of your fingers to a body area and then gently moving them over the area, pressing about 1⁄2 inch.
  • Light palpation is best for assessing surface characteristics, such as:
  • Temperature
  • Texture
  • Mobility
  • Shape ,and size.
  • Assessing pulses
  • Areas of edema
  • Areas of tenderness.
  • Closing your eyes while palpating may help you concentrate better on what you are feeling.


types of palpation1
Types of Palpation
  • Deep palpation is applying harder pressure with your fingertips or pads over an area to a depth greater than 1⁄2 inch.
  • Deep palpation can be single-handed or bimanual

Mrs.Mahdia Kony


When using the bimanual technique, feel with your dominant hand. You can place your other hand on top to help control your movements or to stabilize an organ with one hand while you palpate it with the other

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

uses of deep palpation
Uses of deep palpation
  • To assess organ size
  • Detect masses
  • Assess areas of tenderness.


rebound tenderness
Rebound tenderness
  • To assess for rebound tenderness, press down firmly with your dominant hand and then lift it up quickly.
  • An increase in the patient’s pain when you release the pressure signals rebound tenderness.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Ballottement is a palpation technique used to assess a partially free-floating object.
  • Deep palpation is applied in one area, causing the partially attached object to become palpable in another area.
  • It is frequently used to assess the fetus during pregnancy.
  • It is also used to assess for fluid in the supra patellar pouch, which, if present, results in a floating kneecap that bounces back on your finger when tapped.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Percussion is used to assess density of underlying structures, areas of tenderness, and deep tendon reflexes (DTRs).
  • Striking a body surface with quick, light blows and eliciting vibrations and sounds.
  • The sound determines the density of the underlying tissue and whether it is solid tissue or filled with air or fluid.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

factors influence the sound produced during percussion
Factors influence the sound produced during percussion:
  • The thickness of the surface being percussed: The more tissue you have to percuss through, the duller the sound.
  • Your technique.
  • Percussion is a skill that usually requires practice to perfect.
  • You also need to develop skill at identifying and differentiating the percussion sounds.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

types of percussion
Types of Percussion

Direct or immediate percussion is directly tapping your hand or fingertip over a body surface to elicit a sound or to assess for an area of tenderness.

It is also used to assess for sinus tenderness.

Indirect or mediate percussion: place your nondominant hand over a body surface, pressing firmly with your middle finger.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

types of percussion1
Types of Percussion

Indirect or mediate percussion:

  • Place your nondominant hand over a body surface, pressing firmly with your middle finger.
  • Then place your dominant hand over it.
  • Flexing the wrist of your dominant hand, tap the middle finger of your nondominant hand with the middle finger of your dominant hand.
  • Do not rest your entire hand on the body surface because this dampens the sound.
  • Keep only your middle finger on the body surface, and hyperextend it as you percuss.
  • Tap lightly and quickly, removing your top finger after each tap.


types of percussion2
Types of Percussion
  • Using a percussion hammer:
  • To test reflexes is also a type of indirect percussion. Instead of your finger, you use the hammer to tap a body surface.
  • The purpose of this type of percussion is to elicit DTRs.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

types of percussion3
Types of Percussion
  • Fist or blunt percussion:
  • Is used to assess fororgan tenderness
  • It may be direct or indirect.

a) Direct fist percussion involves striking a body surface with the ulnar surface of your fist.

b) Indirect fist percussion involves placing your nondominant hand over the body surface and then striking that hand with the ulnar surface of your other fist.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Auscultation involves using your sense of hearing
  • You will listen to heart sounds, lung sounds, bowel sounds,and vascular sounds.

Direct auscultationis listening for sounds without a stethoscope, example is respiratory congestion in a patient who requires suctioning

Indirect auscultation with a stethoscope. Your ability to hear is affected by the quality of the stethoscope.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

  • Auscultation is also a skill that requires practice.
  • You need to know normal sounds before you can begin to identify abnormal sounds.

Characteristics of sound:

  • Pitch may be high, medium, or low.
  • Intensity can range from soft to loud
  • Duration may be short or long
  • Quality describes the sound. Was it harsh, blowing

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

auscultation tips
Auscultation Tips

■ Always have earpieces pointing forward to seal the ear canal. Warm your stethoscope.

■ Work on the patient’s right side.

■ Never listen through clothes.

■ Make sure that the environment is quiet.

■ If hair is a problem, wet it to minimize artifact.

■ Use light pressure to detect low-pitched sounds

■ Use firm pressure to detect high-pitched sounds.

■ Close your eyes to help you focus.

■ Learn to become a selective listener.


positions for physical assessment
Positions for Physical Assessment



■ Anterior chest for respiratory, cardiac, and breast exams (should be supine for breast exam).

■ Pulses and extremities.


If patient has trouble breathing in supine position, use semi-Fowler’s position .

Mrs.Mahdia Kony



■ Head and neck.

■ Anterior and posterior chest for respiratory, cardiac, and breast exams.

■ Vital signs and upper extremities.


  • Provides good visualization.
  • Allows full lung expansion for respiratory assessment.
  • Patients with weakness or paralysis may have difficulty assuming position and need assistance


dorsal recumbent
Dorsal recumbent

■ Abdomen: Basically supine position with knees slightly flexed to relax abdominal muscles.

■ Female pelvic area if patient is unable to assume lithotomy or Sims’ position.

■ Lithotomy position for female pelvic and rectal areas essentially same as dorsal recumbent but legs and feet in stirrups.


■ If patient has abdominal pain, flexing knees is usually more comfortable.

■ Older patients may have difficulty assuming lithotomy position.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony


■ Musculoskeletal system.


■ Difficult position for many patients, especially those with respiratory disease.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

left lateral recumbent
Left Lateral Recumbent

■ Chest: Best for cardiac auscultation, particularly of S3, S4, and some murmurs.


■ Patients with respiratory problems may have trouble assuming this position.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony

knee chest

■ Male rectal and prostate areas: Best position for these exams.


■ This position and its alternative (bending over a table) are very difficult and embarrassing for most patients.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony


■ Spine and joints (ROM): Best for these musculoskeletal areas; used for both neurological exam and to assess gait and cerebellar function.


■ Patients who are weak, disabled, or paralyzed may need assistance or may not be able to assume this position.

Mrs.Mahdia Kony