Cardiovascular (CVS) Examination

This is essentially an examination of the patient’s heart; however it is a complex examination which also includes examination of other parts of the body including the hands, face and neck.  The CVS examination aims to pick up on any cardiovascular pathology that may be causing a patient’s symptoms e.g. chest pain, breathlessness, heart failure.  This examination is performed on every patient that is admitted to hospital and regularly in clinics and general practice.

Like most major examination stations this follows the usual procedure of inspect, palpate, auscultate (look, feel, listen).  It is an essential skill to master and is often examined in OSCE’s.

Subject steps

  1. For this examination the patient should be on the bed with their trunk at 45degrees, they should be exposed from the waist up.

  2. Examine the extensor aspect of the elbow for any evidence of xanthomata.

  3. At this point you should say to the examiner that you would like to take the blood pressure. They will usually tell you not to and give you the value.

  4. Move the examination to the chest, or precordium*. Start by inspecting the area, particularly looking for any obvious pulsations, abnormalities or scars, remembering to check the axillae as well.

    *In some courses, precordium is spelt “praecordium”.

  5. Thank the patient and allow them to dress. Wash your hands and report your findings to the examiner.  If you do find any abnormalities you should indicate that you would like to arrange an ECG and an echocardiogram.