It is important to assess for subtle changes in the skin. You can gather a lot of valuable information about what is going on with a patient by doing a basic assessment of their skin.
What is the patient's color? Is their skin one uniform color, or is one area different?
Palpation allows you to assess for temperature. It is recommended that you use the back of your hand. Again, you are looking to see if the temperature is uniform. If one area of the body is cooler than the other, what would you be concerned about? What about if one area is warmer?
In the ED we often assess for the presence of cellulitis. In patients with cellulitis, the affected area is erythematous and is noted to be warmer than the rest of the body.
Assessing moisture may help indicate a patient's hydration status. Texture of skin can vary with age, ethnicity, or may be affected by the presence of certain underlying conditions.
Skin Turgor is also an important component of palpation. Does anyone know what turgor is used to check for? (elasticity and hydration). To check turgor, you pinch a fold of the skin, often using the patient's forearm. When you let go, the skin should quickly return to it's original form- within 3 seconds. Poor turgor indicates a delay in the time the skin takes to recoil, so longer than 3 seconds. Tenting refers to the appearance of skin with poor turgor. So imagine if you pinch the skin and it does not return to it's original form, it sort of looks like a tent. This is seen more often in elderly patients because their skin has lost its elasticity. And is also seen in severely dehydrated patients.