Once your doctor has looked for obvious signs or symptoms of disease, he or she may use any of three basic techniques to examine you. An examination may include auscultation, in which a stethoscope is used to listen to your chest or other parts of your body; palpation, in which an area is felt with the hands; and percussion, which involves listening to sounds made by tapping certain areas.
A stethoscope can be used to listen not only to the chest but also to sounds made by the intestines or by blood passing through blood vessels. The doctor interprets these sounds to determine whether or not they are normal.
The doctor applies pressure with one or two hands and slowly feels over the entire abdomen. This will help him or her detect enlarged or tender internal organs or abnormal swellings.
By tapping different parts of the chest and abdomen and listening to the sounds that are produced, the doctor can distinguish solid tissue and fluids from gas-filled areas.