Medical examination: how we do it and why?

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As real medical practitioners, the medical method has existed for years. We talk to the patient: take a history and then examine them with using our hands and stethoscope and a few bedside tools such as blood pressure measurement, blood glucose testing and urine testing.

The current generation of medical students and patients seem to have an emphasis on often invasive medical tests and procedures.

The fact is that medical technology has not reached the state of Star Trek whereby a ‘scan’ can tell you what is wrong. Often, there is a trade off with modern imaging techniques in the form of radiation exposure. I’m not at all saying that we should not use them but we should use the right modality that will help solve the patient’s problem. Non-judicious use can lead to unnecessary and quite often large radiation exposure.

Here, in the photo, Dr Chris is demonstrating how to examine a patient’s abdomen and how we divide the abdomen up. Pain in certain parts suggests problems with certain organs. In the field, we see patients in a limited resource setting and so these clinical skills are key.

Clinical examination is quick and easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master.

In the words of William Osler (an eminent physician): listen to your patients they are telling you the answer!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, was a physician and the ‘deductive’ method is the one we use in medicine. I would thoroughly recommend a read.

Although we do not have an instructor that looks like Benedict Cumberbatch, we have plenty of other heart-throbs!

Dipak.

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