Role of history and physical examination in preoperative evaluation

Wilton A. Van Klei*, D. E. Grobbee, C. L.G. Rutten, P. J. Hennis, J. T.A. Knape, C. J. Kalkman, K. G.M. Moons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objective: Since reports have shown that outpatient preoperative evaluation increases the quality of care and cost-effectiveness, an increasing number of patients are being evaluated purely on an outpatient basis. To improve cost-effectiveness, it would be appealing if those patients who are healthy and ready for surgery with-out additional testing could be easily distinguished from those who require more extensive evaluation. This paper examines whether published studies provide sufficient data to determine how detailed preoperative history taking and physical examination need to be in order to assess the health of surgical patients and to meet the objective of easy and early distinction. Methods: A MEDLINE search was conducted from 1991 to 2000 with respect to preoperative patient history and physical examination. Altogether, 213 articles were found, of which 29 were selected. Additionally, 38 cross-references, 7 articles on additional testing and 4 recently published papers were used. Results: It is questionable to what extent an extensive history is relevant for anaesthesia and long-term prognosis. With respect to physical examination, it seems unreasonable to diagnose valvular heart disease based on cardiac auscultation only, and it is unclear which method should be used to predict the difficulty of endotracheal intubation. The benefits of routine testing for all surgical patients before operation are extremely limited and are not advocated. Conclusions: The amount of detail of preoperative patient history and the value of physical examination to obtain a reasonable estimate of perioperative risk remains unclear. Although not evidence based, a thorough history taking and physical examination of all patients before surgery seems important until more evidence-based guidelines become available. Diagnostic and prognostic prediction studies may provide this necessary evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-618
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Anaesthesiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2003


  • Economics, costs and cost analysis, health care costs, direct service costs
  • Patient care, ambulatory care, preoperative care


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of history and physical examination in preoperative evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this