I.Chief Complaint

Why the patient came to the hospital

Should be written in the patient’s own words

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  II.History of Present Illness (HPI)

a chronologic account of the major problem for which the patient is seeking medical care according to Bates’ A Guide to Physical Examination, the present illness “. . . should include the onset of the problem, the setting in which it developed, its manifestations, and any treatments.  The principal symptoms should be described in terms of their (1) location, (2) quality, (3) quantity or severity, (4) timing (i.e., onset, duration, and frequency), (5) the setting in which they occur, (6) factors that have aggravated or relieved them, and (7) associated manifestations.

Also note significant negatives (i.e., the absence of certain symptoms that will aid in differential diagnosis).” that part of the review of systems that pertains to the organ system involved in the problem for which the patient is seeking medical attention should be included in the present illness.  It is not necessary to repeat this information in the review of systems later in the write-up.


 III.         Past medical history (PHx)

A. Childhood illnesses

include measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, polio

  1. Immunizations

ask about DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), including

1.whether the immunizations were complete during childhood

2. when the last tetanus booster was given ask whether polio, measles, rubella, mumps vaccinations are up to date (for measles, include the number of immunizations received and the age at which the first immunization was given). ask whether the patient has received any other vaccinations, particularly (for adults)

  1. pneumococcal
  2. hepatitis B
  3. influenza (yearly) Adult illnesses

give the type of illness, the dates it occurred, whether hospitalization was required (if so, where?), and a very brief summary of the illness (should be limited to one or two phrases if possible)

  1. Operations

include what procedure was done, why it was done, when and where it was done, and whether or not there were any complications

  1. Allergies

to what medications?  Describe the type of reaction and how soon it occurred after the dose of medicine to what foods?  Describe the type of reaction.     F. Medications names of the doses of the medications that the patient takes how long they have been on the medicines and for what reasons (if there are multiple indications for which the medication may be used)

  1. Complimentary Treatments massage, acupuncture, herbals, vitamins, etc.


  IV.           Family history

include information about parents, siblings, maternal and paternal grandparents and aunts and uncles major diseases of importance: diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, tuberculosis, cancer, arthritis, hematologic disorders, mental illness

  1. Social history: education, occupation, who the patient lives with, financial situation travel cigarette smoking expressed in number of pack years (number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years that the patient has smoked gives you the number of pack years); if the patient has quit smoking, note how long ago. alcohol (what kind of liquor patient drinks, how much is drunk daily, and for how long has this pattern been going on) illicit drugs of any kind sexual history

VI.Review of Systems

General:  Usual weight, recent weight change, weakness, fatigue, fever, night sweats, anorexia, malaise

Skin:  Color changes, pruritus, bruising, petechiae, infections, rashes, sores, changes in moles, changes in hair or nails

Head:  Headache, head injury

Eyes:  Vision, glasses/contact lens, date of last eye examination, pain, redness, excessive tearing, double vision (diplopia), floaters (spots in front of eyes), loss of any visual fields, history of glaucoma or cataracts

Ears:  Hearing loss, change in hearing, ringing in ears (tinnitus), ear infections

Nose and Sinuses:  Frequent colds, nasal stuffiness, hay fever, nosebleeds (epistaxis), sinus trouble, obstruction, discharge, pain, change in ability to smell, sneezing, post-nasal drip, history of nasal polyps

Mouth and throat:  Soreness, dryness, pain, ulcers, sore tongue, bleeding gums, pyorrhea, teeth (caries, abscesses, extractions, dentures), sore throat, hoarseness, history of recurrent sore throats or of  strep throat or of rheumatic fever

Neck:  Lumps, swollen lymph nodes or glands, goiter (thyroid enlargement), pain

Lymphatics:  Swollen lymph nodes in neck, axillae, epitrochlear areas, or inguinal area

Breasts:  Lumps, pain, nipple discharge, self-examination, enlargement in men or children (gynecomastia)

Pulmonary:  Cough (duration, association with sputum production), change in chronic cough, trouble breathing (dyspnea), wheezing, coughing up blood (hemoptysis), pain with taking a deep breath (pleuritic chest pain), blue discoloration of lips or nailbeds (cyanosis), history of exposure to TB, history of a previous TB skin test and the results if done, recurrent pneumonia, history of environmental exposure

Cardiovascular:  Chest pain (including details), dyspnea, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (abbreviated “PND”; patient will describe shortness of breath that improves when he or she sits up and dangles feet off the bed), orthopnea (patient has to sleep on pillows to prevent shortness of breath; quantitate by the number of pillows that the patient sleeps on), edema, palpitations, hypertension, known heart disease, history of a murmur, history of rheumatic fever, syncope or near syncope, pain in posterior calves with walking (claudication), varicosities, thrombophlebitis, history of an abnormal electrocardiogram

Gastrointestinal:  Trouble swallowing (dysphagia), pain with swallowing (odynophagia), nausea, vomiting, vomiting blood (hematemesis), food intolerance, indigestion, heartburn, change in appetite, sensation of filling up earlier than usual (early satiety),frequency and character (formed vs. loose) of bowel movements, changes in bowel pattern, rectal bleeding, passing black tarry stools (melena), constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive belching or passing of gas, hemorrhoids, jaundice, liver or gallbladder   problems, history of hepatitis

Urinary:  Blood in urine (hematuria), pain on urination (dysuria), frequency, suprapubic pain, costovertebral angle (CVA)  tenderness, frequent urination at night (nocturia), passing large volumes of urine on a frequent basis (polyuria), stones, inguinal pain, trouble initiating urinary stream, incontinence, history of urinary tract infections Genital tract (male):  Penile discharge, lesions, history of sexually transmitted disease (STD), testicular pain, testicular   swelling, scrotal mass, infertility, impotence, change in libido, sexual difficulties, hernias Genital tract (female):  Age of menarche, last menstrual period, cycle (number of days; how much bleeding,   intermenstrual bleeding, postcoital bleeding, pain with intercourse (dyspareunia), vaginal

discharge, pruritus, contraceptive use, history of STD’s, last Pap smear and results, age at menopause, postmenopausal bleeding, infertility, change in libido, sexual difficulty, pregnancies (including live births and abortions – both spontaneous and induced, complications of pregnancy particularly if these are diabetes or hypertension

Musculoskeletal:  Joint pains or stiffness, arthritis, gout, backache, joint swelling or tenderness or effusion, limitation of motion, history of fractures

Neurologic:  Fainting, blackouts, seizures, paralysis, local weakness, numbness, tingling, tremors, memory changes, headaches, vertigo or dizziness, muscle atrophy

Psychiatric:  Anxiety, nightmares, nervousness, irritability, depression, insomnia, hypersomnia, phobias, tension.  If there are any clues whatsoever that the patient may be suicidal, may have criminal or other sociopathic behavior, this should be pursued.

Endocrine:  Thyroid trouble, heat or cold intolerance, excessive sweating or flushing, diabetes, excessive thirst or hunger                                                        or urination

Hematologic:  Anemia, easy bruising or bleeding, past transfusions and reactions

 VII.Physical examination

  1. Vital signs
  2. General appearance
  3. Skin
  4. HEENT
  5. Neck
  6. Nodes
  7. Breasts
  8. Chest
  9. Heart
  10. Abdomen
  11. Back/spine
  12. Extremities, including exam of pulses
  13. Genitalia
  14. Rectal Neurologic
    1. Mental status
    2. Cranial nerves
    3. Motor
    4. Sensory
    5. Cerebellar; posterior column
    6. Reflexes
  1. Vital signs: Blood pressure: Right and left arms; supine and standing (this needs to be done in only one arm)

Pulse: including comments about whether regular vs. irregular respirations; temperature (document whether oral or by another route; you may take this from the chart)

  1. General appearance: Should describe whether the patient appears acutely ill or not, whether patient is oriented (to time, place, and person)
  2. Skin: Texture, turgor, rash, skin lesions (describe, including location and size if present); icterus, pallor edema, cyanosis
  3. HEENT: Skull (normocephalic?, atraumatic?, any deformities?)*, scalp, hair, distribution.  Lids (any ptosis?), sclerae (any icterus? muddy appearance?), conjunctivae (pale?, injected, or red?), cornea (opacified?), pupils (PERRLA – Pupils equal, round, react to light and accommodation), light reflex (both direct and consensual), visual acuity, fundoscopic exam (include description of optic disc, retinal vessels, retinal lesions).  External auditory canal and tympanic  Nasal septum and whether turbinates are enlarged or reddened, sinus tenderness to palpation and percussion.  Lips, tongue, teeth, gums, oral mucosa, breath odor.  Tonsils, posterior pharyngeal injection or exudates, uvula (in midline?, moves?)
  4. Neck: Supple (mobile).  Thyroid (palpable?, nodules or masses?, tender?)  Trachea (midline?, stridor over it?).  Carotids (volume, upstroke, bruits).  Jugular venous distention.
  5. Nodes: Submandibular, submental, pre- and post-auricular, occipital, anterior and posterior cervical triangles, supraclavicular  (these nodes should all be checked during the HEENT and Neck exams).  During the remainder of the physical, check the following node groups: axillary, epitrochlear, inguinal (You may want to examine these when you are doing the exam of that particular region of the body.  Include the description of these nodal regions with the other nodes listed after the “Neck” exam.)
  6. Breasts: Inspection and palpation, for masses, discharge, or tenderness
  7. Chest: Inspection: for symmetry of respiratory excursions; for deformities

Palpation: for fremitus

Percussion: for resonance, hyperresonance, or dullness

Auscultation: for normal breath sounds, crackles, wheezes, rhonchi, rubs

  1. Heart: Inspection: abnormal outward pulsations; visible PMI

Palpation: for lifts, heaves, shocks (palpable heart sounds), thrills (palpable murmurs), PMI (point of maximal impulse, which should be described in regard to location on the chest, whether discrete or generalized, whether or not abnormally sustained)

Auscultation: rate, rhythm (regular or irregular), heart sounds (S1, S2, S3, S4), murmurs, gallops, rubs, clicks

  1. Abdomen: Inspection: size, contour, scars, abnormal venous patterns

Auscultation: (should be done before palpation), bowel sounds, bruits

Percussion: tympany, shifting dullness, fluid wave, liver size (express in terms of number of centimeters of dullness)

Palpation: tenderness (rebound?, guarding?), liver, spleen, masses, aortic pulsations, hernia

  1. Back/spine: mobility, curvature, posture, tenderness, CVA tenderness
  2. Extremities: Upper and lower: symmetry, moisture, nails, cyanosis, clubbing, edema, tremor.

Joints: swelling, deformities, tenderness, warmth, erythema, effusions, range of motion.

Pulses: Carotids (May be listed in this section even though already mentioned under “Neck”), brachial, radial, femoral, popliteal, dorsalis pedis, posterior tibial – use *Peripheral Pulse

  1. Genitalia: Male – distribution and amount of pubic hair, penile lesions or discharge, circumcised, scrotum, testes for masses or tenderness, epididymis, inguinal canal Female – distribution and amount of pubic hair, external genitalia for lesions, discharge, or evidence of inflammation, vagina, cervix, uterus and adnexae (bimanual exam for masses and tenderness), rectovaginal
  2. Rectal: External lesions, hemorrhoids, fissures, fistulae, sphincter tone, prostate for size and masses and tenderness, masses,  stool (color, consistency, occult blood)
  3. Neurologic: Mental status – level of consciousness, behavior, attention and concentration, language, memory, drawings, abstract reasoning (proverb interpretation, similarities, calculations) Cranial nerves – II – XII (list the cranial nerve and the manner in which it was checked.For example: “Cr nn III, IV, and VI: Full EOM’s; intact direct and consensual pupillary reflex”); visual fields Motor – gait (regular, toe, heel, tandem), balance, involuntary movements (fasciculations, tremor, chorea, posturing), limb tone (spasticity, rigidity, cogwheeling, flaccidity), contracture, strength (grade on a scale of 0 – 5 using Bates’ criteria **), muscle bulk (atrophy, hypertrophy), muscle tenderness

Sensory – pinprick, light touch, graphesthesia, sterognosis, double simultaneous touch

Cerebellar – gait for ataxia, finger-to-nose, heel-to-shin, rapid alternating movements; standing with feet together and eyes open

Posterior column – vibratory sensation, position sense, Romberg sign

Reflexes – Deep tendon reflexes: biceps, triceps, brachioradialis, knee jerk, ankle jerk ***

Pathologic reflexes: Babinski, digital reflexes (Wartenberg, Hoffman), grasp reflex, snout reflex


*Peripheral Pulse                   **Muscle Strength                 ***Reflex

   Grading Scale                           Grading Scale                        Grading Scale


  • – absent,                   0 – No muscular                 4+ – Very brisk, hyperactive;      not palpable                          contraction                              often associated with clonus


  • – diminished,                                1 – A barely detectable         3+ – Brisker than average      barely palpable                    flicker or trace of C


2 – expected   2 – Active movement           2+ – Average; normal
         of body part with


       gravity eliminated
3 – full, increased   3 – Active movement           1+ – Somewhat diminished;


        against gravity               low normal
4 – bounding   4 – Active movement           0  – No response
         against gravity


       and some resistance
    5 – Active movement

against full resistance                                                 without evident fatigues.                                                 (This is normal muscle                                                 strength.)


VIII. Problem List

This is simply a list of all abnormal findings from the history and the physical exam.  Related problems may be grouped together (e.g. “shortness of breath, tachypnea, and abnormal lung exam” could all be listed as part of the same problem.)   The list should be organized such that the most serious problems are listed first.

IX. Differential Diagnosis

A list of diseases that you think can explain the major problems identified on the problem list.  They should be organized such that the most likely diagnoses are listed first.   Try to account for as many problems as possible with a single diagnosis


RPD: 06/07