Clinical physiology

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Clinical physiology is both an academic discipline within the medical sciences and a clinical medical specialty for physicians in the health care systems of Sweden,[1][2] Denmark[3] and Finland.[4] Clinical Physiology can also be more broadly defined as the application of the knowledge of human physiology to patients in a health care setting.[5] As a specialty for medical doctors, Clinical Physiology is a diagnostic specialty to which patients are referred to undergo specialized tests of functions of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. Testing methods include evaluation of electrical activity (e.g. electrocardiogram of the heart), blood pressure (e.g. ankle brachial pressure index), and air flow (e.g. pulmonary function testing using spirometry). In addition, Clinical Physiologists measure movements, velocities, and metabolic processes through imaging techniques such as ultrasound, echocardiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-ray computed tomography (CT), and nuclear medicine scanners (e.g. single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET) with and without CT).


Human physiology is the study of bodily functions. Clinical physiology examinations typically involve assessment of such functions as opposed to assessment of structures and anatomy. The specialty encompasses the development of new physiological tests for medical diagnostics, while some Clinical Physiology departments perform tests from related medical specialties including nuclear medicine, clinical neurophysiology, and radiology. In the health care systems of countries that lack this specialty, the tests performed in clinical physiology are often performed by the various organ-specific specialties in internal medicine, such as cardiology, pulmonology, nephrology, and others.

In Australia, the United Kingdom as well as many other commonwealth and European countries, clinical physiology is not a medical specialty for physicians. It is its own non-medical health profession - scientist, physiologist or technologist - who may practice as a cardiac scientist, vascular scientist, respiratory scientist, sleep scientist or in Ophthalmic and Vision Science as an Ophthalmic Science Practitioner (UK).[5] These professionals also aid in the diagnosis of disease and manage patients, with an emphasis on understanding physiological and pathophysiological pathways.[5] Disciplines within clinical physiology field include audiologists, cardiac physiologists, gastro-intestinal physiologists, neurophysiologists, respiratory physiologists, and sleep physiologists.


Clinical physiology was first established in 1954 by the Swedish government with the intention of ensuring "contact between routine clinical work and the scientific progression." Clinical physiology was originally its own discipline, however, between 2008-2015, clinical physiology was categorized as a sub-discipline to radiology. For this reason, those pursuing a career in clinical physiology had to first become registered and certified radiologists before becoming clinical physiologists. Since 2015, it is once again possible to train to be a clinical physiologist, with clinical physiology being its own discipline independent of radiology.


  1. ^ Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare List of Medical Specialties
  2. ^ Arheden H (December 2009). "Clinical physiology: a successful academic and clinical discipline is threatened in Sweden". Advances in Physiology Education. 33 (4): 265–7. doi:10.1152/advan.00072.2009. PMID 19948671. S2CID 12888994.
  3. ^ Danish Health and Medicines Authority[full citation needed]
  4. ^[full citation needed][permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b c "Clinical Physiology." Archived 2013-04-20 at the Wayback Machine from Griffith University. Retrieved December 2013

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