diagnosis

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

diagnosis

diagnosis, determination of the nature of a disease or ailment. A clinical diagnosis is based on the medical history and physical examination of the patient: it may be confirmed with X-Rays, CAT Scans (Computerized Axial Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and other laboratory tests. Diagnosis by physical examination includes ascertaining temperature, pulse, and blood pressure and involves the use of palpation, to detect enlarged organs and other abnormalities; tapping, to delineate some of the internal organs; and listening, to interpret sounds from organs such as the heart and lungs. Instruments that facilitate physical examination include the sphygmomanometer for blood pressure; the stethoscope for listening to the heart and lungs; the ophthalmoscope to examine the inner eye; and the laryngoscope and bronchoscope to view the larynx, windpipe, and other air passages. Recent innovations in electronics have made it possible for any of these devices to be fitted with video cameras and lights, so that the interior of the body can be viewed on video monitors and recorded on videotape for future reference. In diagnostic tests, the blood, urine, tissues, and other excretions and secretions of the body are examined for evidence of chemical imbalance, cellular change, and the presence of pathogenic organisms. Exploratory surgery and the insertion of visual equipment through a small incision (e.g., laparoscopy and arthroscopy) may be used to assist in diagnosis.

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