Operational Medicine Medical Education and Training

Examining the Chest

This video was produced by the US Army in 1992 to assist in instructing medical providers in the examination of the chest.

Topics include inspection, palpation and percussion, appropriate for training Army Medics, Navy Hospital Corpsmen, or Emergency Medical Technicians.

The video may be freely downloaded.
Video Runtime 13:51
27 MB wmv
Download Now



Military triage


THE EXAMINATION: Proceed in an orderly way beginning with a complete exam of the posterior chest first, followed by the anterior chest.

  1. Inspect: Look for deformity, retractions with inspirations, or a displaced trachea. Observe rate, depth and effort of breathing. Listen for wheezes, etc.

  2. Palpation: Check for areas of pain, masses, and feel for the movement of the chest on deep inspiration. Palpate for tactile fremitus (vibrations felt through the chest wall by palpation). Using your palm at the base of the fingers palpate having the patient repeat the words "ninety-nine". Fremitus is decreased with pnuemothorax and increased when transmission of sound is increased as though consolidated lung of lobar pneumonia.

  3. Percussion is used to determine if the underlying tissues are air or fluid filled or solid. Using the middle finger's distal joint press firmly on the chest keeping the rest of the hand off. Then strike the DIP joint with your other middle finger tip-movement is from the wrist. Normal lung tissue is resonant. The liver sound is dull. The lungs sound dull when fluid replaces air in the lungs as in pneumonia with infiltrate or with hemothorax. Percuss for diaphragmatic excursion, compare the level of the dullness on full expiration and full inspiration, usually moves up and down 5-6 cm.

  4. Ausculatation of lung fields: Abnormal breath sounds of the lungs are of two types:

    1. Crackles (old name was rales): are intermittent, non-musical, very brief sounds. They sound like rubbing hair between your fingers. Notice if they are heard on inspiration or expiration. These sounds are produced when previously closed airways open suddenly in the smaller airways.

    2. Continuous or of longer duration then crackles with a musical sound. There are of two types:

      1. Wheezes: High pitched musical sound caused by relatively high velocity air flow through a narrowed airway.

      2. Rhonci: Deeper, have a snoring quality, caused by the passage of through an airway obstructed by secretions. Tend to disappear after coughing.

Now repeat the examination on the anterior chest:

  1. Inspect chest

  2. Palpation of chest

  3. Palpation of tactile fremitus

  4. Percussion of anterior thorax

  5. Auscultation of anterior chest

From the Hospital Corpsman Sickcall Screeners Handbook
Naval Hospital, Great Lakes

April, 1999


Home    Textbooks and Manuals    Videos    Lectures    Distance Learning    Training    Operational Safety   Supplies and Equipment    Search    About Us


This website is dedicated to the development and dissemination of medical information that may be useful to those who practice Operational Medicine. This website is privately-held and not connected to any governmental agency. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and unless otherwise noted, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brookside Associates, Ltd., any governmental or private organizations. All writings, discussions, and publications on this website are unclassified.

2006, 2007, 2008, Medical Education Division, Brookside Associates, Ltd. All rights reserved

Other Brookside Products

Contact Us

Advertise on this Site