Before your physician starts the physical exam, he or she will ask you some questions about your complaints. Be prepared to provide detailed information regarding your symptoms (cough, fever, fatigue) as well as your medical history (any preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes) and lifestyle factors (smoking, recent travels, animal contact).
During the first part of your pneumonia physical exam, your physician will inspect your overall demeanor to identify signs of fatigue or dehydration. Your temperature, heart rate, and breathing will be also be checked. Afterwards, he or she will feel your lymph nodes to detect if there’s any enlargement (called lymphadenopathy) which is a sign of infection. Your physician will also lightly tap on your chest to check dullness over your lungs, this is called percussion dullness and can determine if there’s fluid inside your lungs. The final part of your physical exam is auscultation. This is when your physician will use a stethoscope to listen to your lung sounds. Pneumonia lung sounds are very different from normal healthy lung sounds, they are heard as fine crackling sounds (called rales) which reflect fluid buildup in the lungs.
After your pneumonia physical exam is over, your physician will request some tests to confirm the diagnosis. The first line imaging method used to diagnose pneumonia is x-ray. But what does pneumonia look like on an x-ray? It appears as an opaque grayish region in your lung called consolidation. Depending on the results of your x-ray, your physician may request further imaging tests like a CT scan. If these tests are inconclusive, you might undergo a bronchoscopy which involves examining the inside of your lungs with a small camera on a flexible tube.