Physical Exams and Clinical Observations Related to Cardiovascular Health

American Heart Month, occurring annually in February, brings awareness to cardiovascular health and heart disease—the leading cause of death in the United States. In honor of the observance, we’ve gathered resources for medical educators and learners to spread knowledge of the cardiovascular system. Following are articles, videos and other resources to augment understanding of physical exams and clinical signs related to the heart. Please join us in sharing this knowledge with the broader medical community!

Cardiac Physical Exams

·      Aortic Regurgitation Exam

Aortic regurgitation is one of the most common heart valve diseases both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. The physical exam is crucial for the diagnosis of aortic regurgitation and also for the identification of its causes and possible complications, including heart failure.

·      Ankle Brachial Index

The Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) is a specific and sensitive metric for the diagnosis of Peripheral Arterial Disease. Additionally, ABI has been shown to predict mortality and adverse cardiovascular events independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

·      Cardiac Second Heart Sounds

The cardiac second sounds can provide several valuable clues to what is going on with the heart. Diagnoses like pulmonary hypertension, severe aortic stenosis, an atrial septal defect and delays in the electrical conduction can be diagnosed or suspected with close attention to second heart sounds.

·      Pulsus Paradoxus and Blood Pressure Management

Blood pressure is an important vital sign. Measurement errors are common, so it is important to understand factors that affects results. Pulsus paradoxus is a very sensitive and valuable tool to diagnose or rule out cardiac tamponade.

·      Diastolic Murmurs Exam

Diastolic murmurs are commonly encountered findings on the auscultation of the heart, both in the outpatient and inpatient setting. The physical exam, when performed correctly, can by itself help determine the underlying cause of a diastolic murmur.

See our entire cardiac video playlist here.

Guess the Cardiac Diagnosis

Check out the following articles to see if you can diagnose the featured conditions!

·      This patient presents with chest pain. What’s the diagnosis?

·      What is this sign?

·      What Is The Specific Cause of This Patient’s Clubbing?

Historical Aspects of Cardiology

Brush up on some of the historical aspects of cardiology!

o   The Jugular Venous Pulse

o   The History of Pulsus Paradoxus

Additional Resources

For more information about American Heart Month, visit:

·      The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

·      The American Heart Association

·      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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