For a medical student, the course in physical diagnosis is the bridge that carries him from the preclinical world of dead people and live animals into the clinical world of sick patients. During the past few decades, the structures on both sides of that bridge have changed enormously. The old architecture, both clinical and preclinical, has been almost totally replaced. Landmarks existing for centuries have been torn down and modern new edifices have been erected, making both worlds drastically different from their state of 50 years ago. What has happened to the bridge? Has its structure stayed the same or has it undergone fundamental changes adapting it to its modern role? One way of answering this question is to contemplate the old and new concepts contained in contemporary textbooks dealing with the performance and application of clinical examination.
This appraisal will be restricted to standard American textbooks of general physical