Letter to the editor:Body mass index proposed as a “vital sign”

Jul 22, 2010

The article “Physical activity plan recommends new 'vital sign'” (The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, June 2010, page 233) caught my attention. Traditionally, every medical student introduced to physical examination and diagnosis as part of his or her clinical experience has been taught that the vital signs should be the recording of a patient’s body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, as well as the noting of body weight and height measurements.

The article “Physical activity plan recommends new 'vital sign'” (The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, June 2010, page 233) caught my attention. Traditionally, every medical student introduced to physical examination and diagnosis as part of his or her clinical experience has been taught that the vital signs should be the recording of a patient’s body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, as well as the noting of body weight and height measurements. The article refers to the recording of another vital sign, physical activity, that would direct a protocol that should be initiated by the physician.

I would like to recommend as another vital sign the patient’s body mass index (BMI), which is well established in alerting the physician during the initial visit to the many points made in the article about management of a patient’s health problems. The recording of the patient’s BMI should gain the attention of all those who teach physical diagnosis courses so that they can drive home the importance of this vital sign.

FRANK J. MALTA, MD
Manchester, New Jersey

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