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Assessment and examination of the cardiovascular system

02 March 2022
Volume 33 · Issue 3


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the UK. Maleka Harcharran describes a systematic overview of conducting a focused assessment and examination of the cardiovascular system

The heart is the most vital organ in the body. Therefore, advanced practitioners must understand the basic anatomy and physiology related to the heart and how to conduct a thorough clinical assessment and examination of the cardiovascular system. This article will provide a systematic overview of conducting a focused assessment and examination of the cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the UK. According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF, 2021), coronary heart disease (CHD) accounts for 64 000 deaths each year or one death every 8 minutes. Many risk factors increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Those from a South Asian, African or Afro Caribbean background are at a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases than White Europeans. Additionally, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, poor diet and lack of exercise are risk factors (BHF, 2021). A cardiovascular examination should be an essential consideration of a complete assessment and examination by an advanced practitioner (AP).

Ideally, a focused cardiovascular assessment is warranted after a thorough evaluation has identified a potential cardiac problem. However, there are occasions when this may differ, for example if a patient developed signs and symptoms that changed from their baseline assessment. The primary benefit of this focused assessment is that it helps guide the AP along their line of questioning regarding the patient's signs and symptoms and move swiftly to complete a more detailed physical cardiovascular examination. The assessment and clinical examination findings will guide the diagnosis, differential diagnosis, further tests needed, and treatment options available. Throughout this process, the patient's privacy and concerns should be paramount, utilising advanced communication skills.

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