High-Fidelity Physical Examination Model

At a Glance

​Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a high-fidelity physical examination model (PE Model) to allow medical personnel to accurately identify the intra/abdominal structures that they are palpating during training exercises. The PE model is comprised of a skeleton, organs, soft tissues, and electronic components that allow haptic feedback via sensors in the integral intra-abdominal organs and structures. Actuators integrated to the PE model allow the change of organ characteristics to simulate different conditions. Additionally, the system allows an instructor to assess a student’s ability to accurately identify both normal and abnormal structures.


​Palpation is a vital medical technique providing a rapid health assessment of the major organs of patients, such as canines, felines, humans, or other animals.

Every medical and veterinary student learns how to palpate. But how do they know what they are palpating, and what is the difference between healthy and diseases organs? This simulation tool allows students to not only learn how to palpate, but provides feedback – something crucial to developing the best clinicians.


Medical techniques are most effectively learned heuristically through physical practice on live patients or in a simulated environment. Using a live patient for training, however, frequently induces discomfort in the patient, particularly where the technique is practiced by a large number of students consecutively. For example, canine palpation techniques may be learned using a live canine, and over the course of multiple students practicing the technique, the canine often becomes agitated and/or sore.

Conventional palpation models replicate the internal organ structure of a live patient, while permitting the practice of palpation techniques an unlimited number of times by students. However, such models fail to decipher between an accurate and an inaccurate or otherwise imprecise performance of palpation techniques. Many students are unconfident in their palpation skills and often resort to memorizing a script of what to say and generally where to feel on a model to pass an examination.

Moreover, accurate palpation is performed with an application of force necessary to assess the health of internal organs without inducing discomfort in a patient. Conventional models fail to measure or otherwise provide an indication of the level of force applied by a student during palpation. An instructor thus cannot positively establish whether a student successfully learned palpation or know for sure what the student is actually feeling during a palpation.


  • Instrumented with electronic and mechanical sensors and actuators
  • Integrated with computer software/hardware
  • Enables real-time feedback
  • Includes simulations of a variety of different organ abnormalities for palpation
  • Broad applicability to many species including:
    • small animal
    • large animal (cattle, horses) and
    • humans


  • All areas of medicine wherein physical examination using palpation is necessary—including human, nursing, veterinary, and military
Last Updated: March 2023

Available for License, Collaboration, or Funding
TRL: 5

IP Status

​Dean A Hendrickson
Grahm J Hendrickson
Jessica L Sullivan
Anura P Jayasumana
Bradley S Evans
Yiyu Feng

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Steve Foster