Medical Instruments: Basic Physical Exam Terminology

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  • 0:01 Physical Exams of Systems
  • 0:17 Instruments
  • 2:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson is going to introduce the instruments that are used by the doctor during a basic physical exam. We will look at how and where the instruments are used.

Physical Exam of Systems

You are at your annual physical exam appointment waiting to see the doctor. Your nerves are a little bad as you begin to wonder, 'What is the doctor going to do? Why is it being done? How is it going to be done?' We are going to look at one aspect of your physical exam now. There are several parts of your body that will be examined using different instruments to determine the overall state of your body.


Doctors have instruments that they can use to get an idea of what is going on in almost any part of your body. Most of these instruments are various types of scopes, instruments used for viewing and examining. Let's look at the scopes used in a basic physical exam now.

Your doctor will get the ophthalmoscope to use as the instrument to view the eyes. It has a very bright light that helps to view into the eyeball at the different structures and tissues. This scope will allow your doctor to tell if your eyes are healthy or if they contain any infected or diseased tissue. Your doctor can also tell if the pupils of your eyes react to light the way that they should using this scope.

A similar scope is the otoscope, which is the instrument used for viewing the ears. This scope is shaped so that the tip is able to fit into the opening of the ear. There is a bright light on this one also, which allows your doctor to see your eardrum and structures of the middle ear. The otoscope can aid in detecting middle ear infections or issues with earwax buildup that can affect your ability to hear.

The next scope that your doctor will use during your exam isn't one for looking at some part of your body. A stethoscope is used for listening to different functions in your body. Stethoscopes are needed to magnify internal body sounds such as the heartbeat or the noise the lungs make as the patient breathes in or out so the doctor is able to hear. Other than the occasional stomach growl, your doctor would have no clue of how the inside of your body sounds without using a stethoscope!

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