We have examined the observer variation in the detection of physical signs in airways obstruction. In the first study, 10 relatively experienced physicians examined 11 patients for the presence of six familiar signs and seven less well-known signs. Six experienced observers then underwent a training period after which they examined another group of 21 patients. The repeatability of all the signs fell about midway between that expected by chance and the maximum possible. There was no difference between the familiar and unfamiliar signs. The training period resulted in a slight but not significant improvement in reliability.
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