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Chapter 6 The Thorax and Lungs

Case Study

CHIEF COMPLAINT: I cant catch my breath.

History of Present Illness: Mary is a 25-year-old telemarketer who presents to the emergency room for evaluation of shortness of breath. It started 1 week ago, right after a dust storm. She states that she starts coughing, but then she cant stop, so she feels like she cant breathe after a while. The coughing is so bad that she has vomited afterward. The cough is nonproductive. She denies fever or chills. She has noticed nasal congestion and a clear runny nose. She feels like her ears are stopped up and she has noticed increased sneezing in the past 3 days prior to the onset of the shortness of breath. She also has itchy, watery eyes. She has a childhood history of asthma, which she has outgrown. The last time she had an asthma attack, she was 15 years old. She takes oral contraceptives, but is not on any other medication. She has never had any surgeries. When she had asthma as a child, she was never intubated. She smokes 5 cigarettes per day and has since age 18. She drinks alcohol socially. She tried marijuana in high school, but denies any ongoing use. Her mother has asthma and her father has high blood pressure.

What parts of the exam would you like to perform? (Circle the appropriate areas.)


General survey Vital signs Skin Head and neck Thorax and lungs Cardiovascular Abdomen

Breasts and axillae Female genitalia Male genitalia Anus, rectum, prostate Peripheral vascular/extremities Musculoskeletal Nervous system

What physical findings are you looking for to help determine the diagnosis?


These are the actual findings on physical examination:

General survey

Patient is an alert, young woman, sitting and leaning forward on the exam table

Vital signs

BP 150/90 mm Hg; HR 90 bpm and regular; respiratory rate 28 breaths/min; temperature 100.2F


Skull is normocephalic, atraumatic. Hair with average texture. Visual acuity 20/20. Sclera white, conjunctiva with erythema. Pupils constrict from 3 to 1.5 mm, equal, round, and reactive to light and accommodation; disc margins sharp without hemorrhages, exudates, or arteriolar narrowing External ear canals patent; tympanic membranes dull, with decreased cone of light Nasal mucosa pale and boggy; septum midline, no sinus tenderness. Oral mucosa pink, dentition good; pharynx without exudates

Neck Lymph nodes Thorax and lungs

Trachea midline, neck supple without thyromegaly No cervical, axillary, epitrochlear, or inguinal adenopathy Thorax symmetric with good expansion Lungs with decreased resonance. Expiratory wheezes diffusely in all lung fields


JVP 6 cm above the right atrium; carotid upstrokes brisk without bruits PMI tapping, 7 cm lateral to the midsternal line in the 5th intercostal space. Good S1, S2; no S3, S4; no murmurs, or extra sounds

Based on this information, what is your differential diagnosis?


1. ______________ 2. ______________ 3. ______________


1. A patient complains of shortness of breath and productive cough. Consolidation is present in the lungs if you find:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Dullness to percussion over left base Bronchial breath sounds throughout Increased tactile fremitus throughout Inspiratory and expiratory wheezes

2. Which of the following is the best technique for assessing the supraclavicular lymph nodes?

(A) (B) (C)

Place the patient in a supine position and ask him to hold his breath while you palpate Place the patient in Trendelenburg position and illuminate the nodes with a bright light Standing behind the patient, palpate deeply behind the clavicles as he takes a deep breath


Palpate lightly below the clavicles with the patient in a sitting position

3. The examiner notes an abnormally high diaphragm on the right side and descent of 4 cm on the left side. These findings suggest:


The patient may have a pleural effusion


(B) (C) (D)

The patient may have right middle lobe pneumonia Asymmetrical findings, which are common in well-conditioned adults A normal finding because the right lung is larger than the left lung

4. The following findings indicate a possible pulmonary abscess:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Malodorous breath Protrusion of the clavicle Clubbing of the nail beds Kussmaul respirations

5. The patient has an undiagnosed tumor in the middle lobe of the right lung, causing atelectasis, as suggested by

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Low-pitched grating sound heard during inspiration and expiration Hyperresonance in the right middle lobe Diminished or absent breath sounds in the right middle lobe An ammonia-like odor on the patients breath

6. While auscultating the lungs of an obese patient, you would expect the heart sounds to be:

(A) (B) (C)

Louder and closer Softer and more distant Louder and more distant



Softer and closer

7. To rule out a middle lobe pneumonia, you must make sure to auscultate:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Beneath the right breast Beneath the left breast Under the right axilla Under the left axilla

8. When percussing normal lungs, the expected percussion note would be:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Resonance Tympany Dullness Stridor

9. Expected findings in the healthy adult lung include the presence of:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Increased tactile fremitus and dull percussion tones Adventitious sounds and limited chest expansion Muffled voice sounds and symmetrical tactile fremitus Absent voice sounds and hyperresonant percussion tones

10. Dullness on percussion over the left lower lobe of the lung is most likely to reflect:


(A) (B) (C) (D)

Consolidation Asthma Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Excess adipose tissue

11. The most important technique when progressing from one auscultory site on the thorax to another is:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Top-to-bottom comparison Side-to-side comparison Posterior-to-anterior comparison Interspace-by-interspace comparison

12. When auscultating the chest in an adult, you would:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Use the bell of the stethoscope held lightly against the chest to avoid friction Use the diaphragm of the stethoscope held firmly against the chest Instruct the client to breathe in and out through her nose Instruct the patient to take deep, rapid breaths

13. Decreased breath sounds would be most likely to occur:

(A) (B) (C)

When the bronchial tree is obstructed When adventitious sounds are present In conditions of hyperresonance like COPD



In conjunction with whispered pectoriloquy

14. A patient presents with an area of dullness to percussion and breath sounds that are decreased to absent, suggesting the following diagnosis:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Pneumothorax COPD (emphysema) Pleural effusion Asthma

15. A teenage boy presents to the emergency room with complaints of sharp pain and trouble breathing. You find that the patient has cyanosis, tachypnea, tracheal deviation to the right, decreased tactile fremitus on the left, hyperresonance on the left, and decreased breath sounds on the left. This is consistent with:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Acute pneumonia An asthmatic attack Bronchitis A spontaneous pneumothorax

16. Tachypnea, use of accessory muscles, prolonged expiration, intercostal retraction, decreased breath sounds, and expiratory wheezes are all symptomatic of:

(A) (B) (C)

Pleural effusion Atelectasis Asthma




17. Air passing through narrowed bronchioles would produce which of the following adventitious sounds:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Whispered pectoriloquy Wheezes Bronchophony Muffled breath sounds

18. The primary muscles of respiration include the:

(A) (B) (C) (D)

Diaphragm and intercostals Trapezius and rectus abdominus Sternomastoids and scalenes External obliques and pectoralis major