PreparationBefore visiting the health care professional, the patient should write down important facts and dates about his or her own medical history, as well as those of family members. He or she should have a list of all medications with their doses or bring the actual bottles of medicine along. If there are specific concerns about anything, writing them down is a good idea.
Before the physical examination begins, the bladder should be emptied and a urine specimen can be collected in a small container. For some blood tests, the patient may be told ahead of time not to eat or drink after midnight.
The patient usually removes all clothing and puts on a loose-fitting hospital gown. An additional sheet is provided to keep the patient covered and comfortable during the examination.
AftercareOnce the physical examination has been completed, the patient and the examiner should review what laboratory tests have been ordered and how the results will be shared with the patient. The medical professional should discuss any recommendations for treatment and follow-up visits. Special instructions should be put in writing. This is also an opportunity for the patient to ask any remaining questions about his or her own health concerns.
Normal resultsNormal results of a physical examination correspond to the healthy appearance and normal functioning of the body. For example, appropriate reflexes will be present, no suspicious lumps or lesions will be found, and vital signs will be normal.
Abnormal resultsAbnormal results of a physical examination include any findings that indicated the presence of a disorder, disease, or underlying condition. For example, the presence of lumps or lesions, fever, muscle weakness or lack of tone, poor reflex response, heart arhythmia, or swelling of lymph nodes will point to a possible health problem.
BOOKSBates, Barbara. A Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. Philadelphia: Lippincott Co., 1995.
Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 1994.
Date Published: 2011
Copyright: Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health