Other Known Aliases – dorsiflexion sign
Definition – pain in the posterior leg (classically behind the knee) with forced dorsiflexion of the foot
Clinical Significance – this examination finding was used in patients with a suspected DVT and before D-Dimers and clinical ultrasound were readily available. It is clinically useless as it has been studied extensively and found to have a sensitivity of 10-54% and specificity of 29-89%, thus not ruling in or out the condition consistently.
History – Named after John Homans (1877-1954), who was an American surgeon and received his medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School. He worked with Harvey Cushing and Samuel Crowe early in career exploring the connection between the piuitary gland and the reproductive system. He first described his eponymous finding in 1944 in a NEJM article entitled “Diseases of the veins” and later published the first case report of a DVT occuring after prolonged sitting on a flight between Boston and Caracas in 1954. He was a founding member of the the Society for Vascular Surgery and the namesake of the John Homans Chair of Surgery position at Harvard Medical School and John Homans Fellowship in Vascular Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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Out of curiosity is the Homan’s sign still taught in PA education? I realize the statistical significance that the Homan sign is not valid, based on what we have at our fingertips now, but we continue to teach the use of the Homan’s sign in physical assessment. Just curious.
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I chalk Homan’s sign up with Kernig’s and Brudzinki’s sign. Historically pertinent, but clinically useless. I do still teach all three of these just for that purpose.