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Percussion

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.

Images

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.

Review Date 1/31/2015

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.