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Percussion

  • Definition
    • Percussion is a method of tapping body parts with fingers, hands, or small instruments as part of a physical examination. It is done to determine:

      • The size, consistency, and borders of body organs
      • The presence or absence of fluid in body areas

      Percussion of a body part produces a sound, like playing a drum. The sound is a sign of the type of tissue within the body part or organ.

      • Lungs sound hollow on percussion because they are filled with air.
      • Bones, joints, and solid organs such as the liver sound solid.
      • The abdomen sounds like a hollow organ filled with air, fluid, or solids.
  • References
    • Simel DL. Approach to the patient: history and physical examination. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 6.