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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.

Information

References

Simel DL. Approach to the patient: history and physical examination. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 6.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.