Comparing Physical Examination With Sonographic Versions of the Same Examination Techniques for Splenomegaly

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To determine whether sonographic versions of physical examination techniques can accurately identify splenomegaly, Castell's method (Ann Intern Med 1967; 67:1265–1267), the sonographic Castell's method, spleen tip palpation, and the sonographic spleen tip technique were compared with reference measurements.


Two clinicians trained in bedside sonography patients recruited from an urban hematology clinic. Each patient was examined for splenomegaly using conventional percussion and palpation techniques (Castell's method and spleen tip palpation, respectively), as well as the sonographic versions of these maneuvers (sonographic Castell's method and sonographic spleen tip technique). Results were compared with a reference standard based on professional sonographer measurements.


The sonographic Castell's method had greater sensitivity (91.7% [95% confidence interval, 61.5% to 99.8%]) than the traditional Castell's method (83.3% [95% confidence interval, 51.6% to 97.9%]) but took longer to perform [mean ± SD, 28.8 ± 18.6 versus 18.8 ± 8.1 seconds; P = .01). Palpable and positive sonographic spleen tip results were both 100% specific, but the sonographic spleen tip method was more sensitive (58.3% [95% confidence interval, 27.7% to 84.8%] versus 33.3% [95% confidence interval, 9.9% to 65.1%]).


Sonographic versions of traditional physical examination maneuvers have greater diagnostic accuracy than the physical examination maneuvers from which they are derived but may take longer to perform. We recommend a combination of traditional physical examination and sonographic techniques when evaluating for splenomegaly at the bedside.

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