What are the components of each step of the physical examination?

  1. Inspection (look and see)
  2. Palpation (feel)
  3. Percussion (feel and listen)
  4. Auscultation (listen with a stethoscope)

In a brief examination, percussion is often left out unless particularly indicated. Always inspect (look) before palpating (touching). Palpate before auscultating (listening). In a small child who is likely to cry, it may be better to listen before palpating. Children are less threatened if you start by examining their limbs first, before examining their chest and abdomen. It is important to make the examination as non-threatening and comfortable as possible. With young children it often helps to turn the examination into a game.

Always observe first.

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