Physical examination

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A resident physician at the Granada Relocation Center, examining a patient's throat

A physical examination, medical examination, or clinical examination (more popularly known as a check-up) is the process by which a medical professional investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally follows the taking of the medical history—an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient. Together with the medical history, the physical examination aids in determining the correct diagnosis and devising the treatment plan. This data then becomes part of the medical record.


  • Don’t touch the patient—state first what you see; cultivate your powers of observation.
    • Sir William Osler, quoted in Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler (1925)

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