Look before you touch

by Lorien E. Menhennett

Finding an element of humor in our medical school lectures is (1) entertaining, and (2) helps me pay attention. (Do what it takes, right?) Today, we started our GI (gastrointestinal) unit, and I was pleased to have a chuckle–at least to myself–within the first hour. The topic of the lecture was abdominal pain, which is one of the main reasons that gastroenterologists see patients both on an outpatient and inpatient basis. In describing the physical exam for abdominal pain, our lecturer talked about the importance of LOOKING before ever touching the patient. One thing he discussed was looking for surgical scars. Which sounds strange. And obvious. But apparently it’s not.

“The number of times the patient forgets they had surgery is insane,” he said. 

[Cue a minor chuckle.]

The physician went on to give a specific example of when this was important in his own practice of medicine. He recounted a time when he was called to the emergency room to evaluate a possible case of appendicitis. As he looked at the patient’s abdomen, what did he see? An appendectomy scar. So, not appendicitis, was his evaluation. 

[Cue a major chuckle.]

Lesson learned for the ER team, I would imagine. And for me, too.