Low-Tech Tests Help Doctors Diagnose Complex Diseases and Predict Risks…

26 Mar

Sometimes, doctors can use common objects to gather preliminary information about a variety of conditions. Here are a few:

The tape measure: A waist size over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women indicates a higher risk for diabetes. It is also helpful as a test for sleep apnea, cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

The bathroom scale: A weight gain of just a few pounds is a signal that heart failure patients are retaining fluid and at risk for hospital admission. Doctors and nurses ask heart failure patients to weigh themselves every day.

The paper clip: A bent paper clip can be used instead of calipers to assess nerve impairment in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. A patient should be able to feel both ends of the paper clip when they are pressed into a finger. It is less expensive than using calipers for the two-point discrimination test.

A handshake: At no cost, a firm handshake can help assure that a patient is healthy enough to make it through heart surgery. A weak grip can warn of possible complications. Surgeons also judge frailty by how easy it is for a patient to get out of a chair or get up on a table for an exam.

A stop watch: Testing how long it takes an elderly heart surgery candidate to walk 15 feet helps predict surgical risk. The gait speed test is a validated measure of frailty in elderly people and a predictor of physical and cognitive health. It should take no longer than six seconds to cross the finish line.


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