Percussion

Definition

Percussion is a method of “tapping” body parts during a physical examination with fingers, hands, or small instruments. The purpose is to evaluate the size, consistency, borders, and presence or absence of fluid in body organs.

Percussion of a body part produces a sound (like playing a drum) that indicates the type of tissue within the organ:

     
  • Lungs sound hollow on percussion because they are filled with air.  
  • Bones and joints sound solid.  
  • The abdomen sounds like a hollow organ filled with air, fluid, or solids.

 

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.

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