Tactile fremitus, also known as pectoral fremitus or vocal fremitus, is the vibration that occurs on someone’s chest when speaking, making a sound or breathing. If the vibration is not felt on one side and is felt on another, it may indicate a significant health problem.
Tactile fremitus may be the result of several significant health conditions, so the symptoms may vary. Tactile fremitus may involve coughing, problems breathing, wheezing, rapid heart beat, lip discoloration, bronchial inflammation, chest pain, abdominal pain and other symptoms.
Tactile fremitus is normally felt along the chest wall of a patient during a chest examination. A physician uses a stethoscope or may use a peak flow meter to measure a patient’s ability to breathe. The patient is normally in a gown and sitting on the end of an exam table during the test.
During a chest examination, a physician may observe the ability to breath, including the rate, rhythm and depth or effort of breathing. A doctor will listen for sounds of abnormal breathing, like wheezing or unsteady breaths and look for the use of specific muscles as well as asymmetry or deformities. The physician also may determine if there are any issues with the location of the trachea.
A physician may require further testing, such as ultrasound, chest X-ray or other diagnostic tools to have a better view of the chest and lungs.
When having a physical exam, a doctor will often ask you to breathe and may even ask you to speak or repeat a phrase, especially if findings prove abnormal. Sometimes, health problems such as pneumonia, pleural effusion, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and congestive heart failure involve changes in palpitation upon a physical exam and may cause an increase or decrease in the vibration along the chest wall. Another cause may be a result of an obese or muscular chest wall.