History and physical in the pediatric patient
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HISTORY AND PHYSICAL IN THE PEDIATRIC PATIENT. Sonya Aikels, DO Shruti Kant, MBBS Chief Residents University of Nevada School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. Identifying Data. Informant: usually parent or patient Primary Care Physician: Referring physician (if different from PCP).

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History and physical in the pediatric patient


Sonya Aikels, DO

Shruti Kant, MBBS

Chief Residents

University of Nevada School of Medicine

Department of Pediatrics

Identifying data
Identifying Data

  • Informant: usually parent or patient

  • Primary Care Physician:

  • Referring physician (if different from PCP)

Chief complaint
Chief complaint

  • This is what the informant (either the parent, patient) states in their own words

  • If the patient is non-communicative or demonstrates altered mental status, you can obtain chief complaint and HPI from medical records reviewed

History of present illness
History of Present Illness

  • This is the most important part of the document.

  • List items in order of appearance

  • Write in a narrative fashion (tell the “story” why the patient is there)

Past medical history
Past Medical History

Aspects of history unique to pediatrics

  • Birth History

    • Minimum: Gestational age, birth weight, days in nursery

    • Maternal complications: extent of prenatal care, infections, exposure to drugs, alcohol or medications

    • Newborn problems: prematurity, respiratory distress, jaundice and infections

  • Developmental History

  • Diet History

    • Infants: breastfeeding/formula, introduction of solids

    • Older Child: Variety of diet (appropriate source of Fe and Ca, etc.), “junk food”, juice and soda intake

    • Adolescent: Dieting, purging, body image, calcium intake in girls

  • Immunization History

    • Review immunization card if available

Patient history cont
Patient History (cont)

  • Medications: name, dose, form, frequency

  • Allergies: medications, foods, latex—including what type of reaction noted (rash?, vomiting? anaphylaxis?)

Patient history continued
Patient History continued

  • Family History

    • Risks for genetic disorders: premature/unexpected deaths, stillborns, consanguinity

    • Age and health of all 1st degree relatives

  • Social history

    • Household composition and any other caregivers

    • H/o violence, substance abuse, etc in the home

    • Parental occupation (risk for toxin exposure)

    • School performance and relationships

    • Insurance info

    • Adolescent: do a HEEADSS exam!!!  

  • Review of Systems

    • detailed but developmentally appropriate

Pediatric physical examination
Pediatric Physical Examination

  • Examination: General tips

    • Minimize discomfort: Use appropriate games and distraction to decrease fear and enhance cooperation.

    • Examine toddlers in parent’s lap if fearful of exam table.

    • Offer gown as appropriate. Explain to parent/child as appropriate.

    • Show them it doesn’t hurt by examining the parent. Let the child examine YOU…

Examination technique
Examination: Technique

  • Flexibility: Adjust the sequence of the exam based on the child’s willingness and ability to cooperate.

    • Save the more invasive and fear-invoking maneuvers (i.e – ear and throat exam) until last.

General appearance
General Appearance

  • Observe any signs of acute or chronic distress as evidenced by skin color, respiration, hydration, mental status, cry and social interaction.

  • Interpret the general appearance of the child including size, morphologic features, development, behaviors and interaction of the child with the parent and examiner.

Vital signs
Vital Signs

  • Measure heart rate, respiratory rate, BP

  • Determine temperature and oxygen saturation as indicated

  • Determine weight, height/length, head circumference (< 2 years), BMI (kg/m2).

    • Plot on standard curves and determine percentiles.


  • Identify the anterior and posterior fontanels and assess them for fullness.

  • Observation of the head size,shape, and symmetry.

  • Note facial features, ear size and hair whorls as part of the examination for dysmorphic features

  • Check red reflex (corneal opacities and intraocular masses)

  • Check for strabismus via corneal light reflex or cover test.

  • Assess dentition, oral mucosa and pharynx.

  • Assess hydration of the mucous membranes.

  • Examine the tympanic membranes using pneumatic otoscopy.

History and physical in the pediatric patient

  • Palpate for lymph nodes (knowing anatomic areas they drain)

  • Recognize and demonstrates maneuvers that test for nuchal rigidity.

  • In Older children- note thyroid size and texture


  • Assess rate, pattern and effort of breathing, recognizing normal variations.

  • Recognize grunting, nasal flaring, stridor, wheezing, crackles/rales and asymmetric breath sounds.

  • Distinguish between inspiratory and expiratory sounds.

  • Interpret less serious respiratory sounds such as transmitted upper airway sounds.


  • Identify the pulses in the upper and lower extremities through palpation.

  • Observe and palpate precordial activity.

  • Assess cardiac rhythm, rate, quality of the heart sounds and murmurs through auscultation.

  • Assess peripheral perfusion by capillary refill.

  • Assess for systemic signs of heart failure (enlarged liver, edema, JVD)


  • Palpate for and percuss out liver and spleen.

  • Examine the umbilical cord in newborns for number of vessels.

  • Identify granulation tissue and umbilical hernias.

  • Assess the abdomen for distention, local or rebound tenderness, and masses through observation, auscultation and palpation.

  • Perform a rectal exam when appropriate.


  • Recognize the appearance of normal male and female genitalia in the newborn.

  • Palpate the testes.

  • Recognize male genital abnormalities including cryptorchidism, hypospadias, phimosis, hernias, hydrocele and testicular mass.

  • Recognize female genital abnormalities including signs of virilization, imperforate hymen, labial adhesions and signs of injury

  • Identify Tanner Stage.


  • Examine the hips of a newborn for dysplasia using the Ortolani and Barlow maneuvers.

  • Evaluate gait/limp.

  • Recognize pathology such as restricted or excessive joint mobility, joint effusions, signs of trauma and inflammation.

  • Contractures in chronic kids

  • Check for tibial bowing (rickets)

History and physical in the pediatric patient

  • Assess for abnormalities/defects over spine.

  • Assess for scoliosis in the older child/adolescent.

Neurologic examination
Neurologic examination

  • Elicit primitive reflexes

  • Assess the quality and symmetry of tone, strength and reflexes using age-appropriate techniques.

  • Assess developmental milestones.

History and physical in the pediatric patient

  • Assess turgor, perfusion, color, pigmented lesions and rashes through observation and palpation.

  • Identify jaundice, petechiae, purpura, vesicles and urticaria.

  • Examine the skin for common birthmarks and skin conditions unique to children.


  • List the abnormalities (pertinent positives) of history and physical exam and tie them together in a diagnostic formulation.

  • If there are several different problem areas, discuss them in sequence and number them to keep them straight.

  • Include a differential diagnosis

History and physical in the pediatric patient

  • Each problem needs a diagnostic and therapeutic plan

  • A systems based approach is used at UNSOM

  • On the wards use the following format:

    • 1) Cardiovascular/Respiratory-include pressors, inotropes, antihypertensives. Include oxygen supplementation

    • 2) Fluids, Electrolytes, Nutrition- include GI here unless there is a major gastrointestinal issue- then its needs its own section

    • 3) Hematologic- Include oncologic here if needed

    • 4) Infectious Disease-include antibiotics used, number of days of therapy required, organism suspected as etiology

    • 5) Neurologic- include pain management here

    • 6) Renal/Ortho/Dermatologic- whatever more specific system is needed based on your patient

Progress notes
Progress Notes

  • Progress notes are your record of the patient's progress - they are intended to be the record of what you thought and did and to be a mode of communication between you and other providers

  • Subjective: deals with how the patient or parent feels - the status of important symptoms like pain or dizziness, mother's perception of the patient's energy level, and the like.

  • Objective: is the data you have collected such as vital signs, test results, changes in objective physical findings, and recommendations by consultants. New labs and xrays

  • Assessment: is the section in which you make sense of the subjective and objective information you have collected. Is the patient responding to therapy? Is the diagnosis still not clear? This is where the academic discussion occurs.

  • Plan: describes what you will do about the assessment, if anything. It should be very specific so that anyone could write orders from it. This may also describe contingency plans - what you plan to do if a test comes back one way vs. another.

The end