AskDefine | Define palpation

Dictionary Definition

palpation n : a method of examination in which the examiner feels the size or shape or firmness or location of something (of body parts when the examiner is a health professional) [syn: tactual exploration]

User Contributed Dictionary



From palpate + -tion



  1. The act of feeling or pushing on various parts of a patient’s body to determine medical condition such as the normality of organs or the presence or absence of tumors, swelling, muscle tension, etc.

Extensive Definition

Palpation is used as part of a physical examination in which an object is felt (usually with the hands of a healthcare practitioner) to determine its size, shape, firmness, or location. Palpation should not be confused with palpitation, which is an awareness of the beating of the heart.


Palpation is used by various therapists such as Chiropractors, practitioners of osteopathic medicine, physical therapists, and massage therapists, to asses the texture of a patient's tissue (such as swelling or muscle tone), assess range and quality of joint motion, and assess tenderness through tissue deformation (e.g. provoking pain with pressure or stretching). The scientific literature has shown that motion palpation is often unreliable between practitioners. In contrast, manual tests that provoke or relieve pain have been shown to be more reliable.
Palpation is typically used for thoracic and abdominal examinations, and this but can also be used to diagnose edema and to measure the pulse. It is used by veterinarians to check animals for pregnancy, and by midwives to determine the position of a fetus.

See also


palpation in German: Palpation
palpation in Indonesian: Palpasi
palpation in Dutch: Palpatie
palpation in Polish: Palpacja
palpation in Russian: Пальпация
palpation in Swedish: Palpation
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