Physical Examination

Physical Examination : Purpose, Methods, Preparation & Checklist


Spread the love

Physical examination is a key component in ensuring and maintaining your overall health. It can keep you in control of your health and guide you to make the best decisions for your future wellness. Let’s see the Definition, Purpose, Methods or Techniques, Annual Checklist, Preparations, Results, Treatment, and Follow-Up Care of Physical Exams.

Physical Examination

Physical Examination

Content in this article

  1. What is Physical Examination?
  2. Purpose
  3. Methods or Techniques
  4. Most Common Laboratory Tests
  5. Annual Examination Checklist
  6. Preparation for Annual Examination
  7. Results
  8. Treatment after Examination
  9. Follow-Up Care
  10. Conclusion
  11. References

What is Physical Examination ?

A physical examination is a routine test done by a medical professional to check your overall health for signs of disease. It usually starts after performing a complete physical health assessment.

A comprehensive physical exam provides an opportunity for the doctor or nurse to obtain baseline information about the patient for future use, and to establish a relationship before problems happen. It also provides an opportunity to answer questions and teach good health practices. If it is possible to detect the problem in its early stages, it can have good long-term results.

A physical exam may also be called a complete medical examination, a routine physical, clinical examination or a checkup.

Purpose of Physical Exam

The purpose of physical examination is to determine the general status of your health by identifying the signs of a disease. It is performed for several reasons:

  • To understand the physical and mental health of the patient.
  • To detect disease in its early stage.
  • To find out the cause and the extent of disease.
  • To understand the changes in the condition of diseases, any improvement or regression.
  • To define the nature of the treatments or nursing care needed for the patient.
  • To safeguard the patient and his family by noting the early signs especially in case of a communicable disease.
  • To contribute to the medical research.
  • To find out whether the patient is medically fit or not for a particular task like surgery if needed.

It can be compared with your computer as computers have diagnostic software which examines them for problems, with valuable suggestions for further troubleshooting. And here, you doctor will also identify diseases and share an appropriate treatment plan with you.

Methods or Techniques of Physical Examination

Physical examination findings, or objective data, are obtained through the use of two specific diagnostic techniques. They are,

  1. A Complete Physical Health Assessment,
  2. Laboratory Tests.

Usually, these examination methods or techniques are performed in this order when body systems are assessed. Let’s know the details of these.

1. A Complete Physical Health Assessment

It includes inspection, palpation, and percussion, auscultation with a general survey, vital signs, and a medical history of a patient with the report after performing a head to toe physical assessment. Learn more by reading Physical Health Assessment: Methods and Steps.

2. Laboratory Tests

After gathering a large amount of information from your physical assessment report, a doctor may suggest several laboratory tests to complete the physical exam. Laboratory test may include urinalysis, blood counts and complete chemistry panels to assess organ function and look for early signs of diseases cardiovascular assessment including an electrocardiogram and so on.[1] They help doctors to diagnose medical conditions, plan or evaluate treatments, and monitor diseases.

Most Common Laboratory Tests

Doctors are often recommended some common laboratory tests, which include the following:

  1. Complete Blood Count (Cbc): A CBC is a collection of tests related to the cells in your blood.
  2. Basic Metabolic Panel (Basic Electrolyte Panel): It measures the amount of Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Carbon dioxide (CO2), Blood urea nitrogen (BUN), Creatinine, Glucose in your blood.
  3. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel: It measures the amount of Calcium, Total protein, Albumin, Bilirubin (total), Alkaline phosphatase, AST (aspartate aminotransferase), ALT (alanine aminotransferase) in your body.
  4. Lipid (Cholesterol) Panel: These tests measure the different types of cholesterol and related fats in the bloodstream.
  5. Thyroid Tests: These tests can be used to screen for thyroid disorders. The most commonly used tests is Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
  6. Tests Related To Vitamin B12 Levels: These measure the serum levels of vitamin B12 and provide information as to whether the level is adequate for the body’s needs.
  7. Prothrombin Time (PT) and International Normalized Ratio (INR): These two tests are used as a measurement of how quickly a patient’s blood clots.
  8. Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) Test: BNP levels are mainly checked because they relate to heart function (not brain function). BNP levels go up when a patient’s heart cannot pump blood as effectively as it should, a problem known as ‘heart failure.’
  9. Ferritin: it measures body’s serum ferritin level related to iron stores in the body.
  10. Glycated Hemoglobin (Hemoglobin A1C): Glycated hemoglobin is formed in the body when blood glucose (blood sugar) attaches to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. This test is most often ordered to monitor the blood sugar control of people with diabetes. [2]

These two methods or techniques of physical exam can be categorized into annual physical exam checklist.

Annual Physical Exams Checklist

Annual physical exams are typically covered on insurance plans and smartly too. It is estimated that 85 percent of illness and disease can be prevented by annual physical exams and screenings.

The idea behind an annual checkup is for doctors to examine their patients when they are basically well by following the above methods or techniques. That way, they could prevent their patients from becoming really sick.

Annual physicals are very important. Doctors can make recommendations if you’ve experienced such things as drastic weight loss or gain, or experienced changes in your vital signs, especially your blood pressure. Those with certain conditions may need to monitor their blood pressure more frequently. A depression screen can also be done as well as a fasting blood test to screen for diabetes. Your primary care doctor may also discuss potential health concerns with you based upon your family history, and suggest lifestyle changes to best prevent them. [3]

So, we should go for a checkup annually, even if nothing is wrong.

Preparation for Annual Physical Examination

Before starting the annual physical exam, the environment, room, patient, equipment and the nurse must be prepared.

1.    Room Preparation

A professional nurse or a medical assistant is responsible for preparing the examination room, making sure the equipment and instruments are disinfected and sanitized, and the supplies are adequately stocked. The examination room should be clean, well lit, ventilated and at a comfortable temperature for the patient. After every physical exam and health assessment the medical assistant should disinfect the room and paper on the surfaces should be removed and replaced. [4]

2.    Patient Preparation

Once the room is ready, a professional nurse escorts the patient from the waiting room to the examination rooms. The nurse will create a low-stress and comfortable atmosphere for the patient. By interviewing the patient, he will Record the patients’ vital signs.

Once the patient puts the examination gown, and sits on the examination table. The nurse drapes their legs for privacy. Then he notifies the doctor that the patient is ready for the physical exam.

3.    Nurse Preparation

The nurse should wash his hands in presence of the patient even if your hands are clean. This simple act will increase the patient’s reliance on him as a conscientious professional. And he should wear gloves and mask only if it is necessary. The nurse will assist the doctor while performing the physical exam.

After taking the preparation of the room, patient, equipment and the nurse, physical examination can be performed.

Results of Physical Examination

Once the physical exam has been completed, the doctor should review what laboratory test results and share the results with the patient. The result may be normal or abnormal.

Normal Results

Normal results of a physical exam correlate with the healthy appearance and normal functioning of the body. For example, appropriate reflexes will be present, normal blood sugar level, no suspicious lumps or lesions will be found, and vital signs will be normal.

Abnormal Results

Abnormal results of a physical exam may include any findings that indicates the presence of a disease, disorder or underlying condition. For example, blood sugar level is higher than normal, the presence of lumps or lesions, muscle weakness or lack of tone, poor reflex response, fever, heart arhythmia, or arthritis problem will point to a possible health problem.

The doctor should discuss any recommendations for treatment and some special instructions should be put in writing. At this time, the patient can ask any remaining questions about his or her own health concerns.

Treatment after Physical Exams

Depending on your physical health issues and understanding your Laboratory test results, the doctor will give you treatments, like_

  • Suggesting some supplements,
  • If gallstones caused your pancreatitis, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder,
  • If you are obese, your doctor may recommend you some Physical Health Activities.
  • Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian who can help you plan low-fat meals that are high in nutrients. Learn more from the Relationship between Health and Nutrition.
  • If you have abnormal pain, your doctor may recommend medications to control your pain and may refer you to a pain specialist etc. [5]

These will definitely help you to treat your health issues. That is why physical examination is known as a way of touching base and fostering your doctor-patients relationship.

Follow-Up Care of Physical Exams

After receiving treatment patients receive follow-up care. Follow-up care varies according to the type of disease. The aim of follow-up care is to make sure everything is going well and to find out if you have any concerns.

A patient and his doctor will work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. For monitoring your health, this plan will serve as a guide for the months and years that follow. This plan is usually based on medical guidelines for a specific diagnosis. Your doctor will also consider your individual needs and preferences.


It is clear that, physical examination has played a vital role in patient care which is also considered as a valuable diagnostic tool. It allows you to catch up on vaccinations or detect a serious condition, before it causes problems. So, we should continue to do so even in the face of wellness.

Spread the love
  • 1K
  • 870
  • 760
  • 650
  • 540

By Post : Nov 23, 2018

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 − 9 =

Scroll Up