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Clinical Exam Still Matters

Written by DR William LeMaire · Thursday 24th July 2014

After I retired from my academic position at the University of Miami, I started working as an intermittent ob & gyn in various cultural settings in the US and abroad. In 2006 I practiced in a hospital in New Zealand.

I saw many interesting cases during my six months at Whangarei Hospital. One stands out in particular. This was a middle aged native Mauri woman who had been seeing her family doctor for several years because she was gaining too much weight, her abdomen was getting bigger, and she was constipated. Each time the family doctor saw her, he did not examine her but patted her on the back and encouraged her to eat less, eat more fruit and vegetables and be more active so that she would lose weight. When much later he finally examined her, he noticed a large tumor in her abdomen and referred her to the hospital.

To make a long story short, we operated on her and removed a large ovarian cyst weighing more than 18 kilograms (about 40 pounds). This cyst fortunately turned out to be benign and the woman did well. The operation itself was something else as we needed an extra assistant to hold the tumor in her arms while we removed it without breaking it.

Even though this large tumor was certainly not a record, we ended up publishing the case in a New Zealaned medical journal for family practice (see reference below), not so much for the nature of the tumor itself as for pointing out to family doctors (all doctors, in fact) that examining patients before giving them advice is most important.

Alison Gale, Tommy Cobb, Robert Norelli, William LeMaire. Increasing Abdominal Girth. The Importance of Clinical Examination. New Zealand Family Physician. 2006; 33 (4): 250-252