Asthma physical examination
Other Diagnostic Studies
Asthma physical examination On the Web
American Roentgen Ray Society Images of Asthma physical examination
The characteristic physical signs of asthma include: loud prolonged polyphonic expiratory wheeze and adventitious sounds such as rhonchi. Presence of wheeze is indicative of airway narrowing; however, the absence of wheeze indicates a silent lung characteristic of status asthmaticus delineated by widespread obstruction that results in significant airflow reduction and insufficient enough to produce a wheeze.
Physical examination may be normal or can be characteristically present with a loud polyphonic expiratory wheeze.
- Increased heart rate in acute severe episode
- Pulsus paradoxus (a fall of SBP between 10-20mmHg during inspiration) in moderately severe episode
- Pulsus paradoxus (a fall of SBP greater than 20-40 mmHg during inspiration) in acute severe episode and imminent respiratory failure
- Increased respiratory rate greater than 30 cycles per minute in moderately severe and acute severe episodes
- Profuse sweating in imminent respiratory failure
- Severe hypoxia resulting in central cyanosis and hypoventilation in imminent respiratory failure
- Conjunctival congestion as a consequence of constant rubbing are suggestive of associated allergic rhinitis.
- Nasal examination is mandatory to rule out associated conditions such as, aspirin sensitivity or allergic rhinitis.
- Transverse crease on nose as a consequence of constant rubbing and pale swollen nasal mucosa are suggestive of associated allergic rhinitis.
- Prolong end-expiratory wheeze
- In between attacks, chest is clear and no abnormal physical signs may be detectable.
Moderately Severe Episode
- Use of accessory muscles of respiration such as sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles
- Hyper-resonant lungs
- Loud prolonged expiratory wheeze with a reduced inspiration to expiration ratio
- Vesicular breath sounds with prolonged respiration
Acute Severe Episode
- Patient has to sit upright with arms extended to support the upper chest (tripod position) that assist the use of accessory muscles of respiration
- Use of accessory muscles of respiration
Imminent Respiratory Failure
- Paradoxical thoraco-abdominal breathing
- Wheeze and breath sounds are typically absent secondary to severe airway obstruction, representing a silent chest which is an ominous sign.
- Persistent scattered rhonchi
Other Associated Findings
- Triad of asthma, nasal polyps and rash is indicative of aspirin sensitivity.
- Presence of clubbing in asthma may be secondary to interstitial lung disease.
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