The Evolution of Exam Tables – From Tradition to Technology

In Medieval Europe, physicians saw patients on wooden tables that doubled as dining tables. While more comfortable than the stools of that time, these tables were cumbersome and difficult to clean.

The modern exam table utilizes hydraulics or electricity to raise and lower a patient. They also offer a host of other features, such as retractable stirrups for OB/GYN exams and storage drawers.


Exam tables are essential medical equipment that supports an array of diagnostic procedures and diverse clinical indications. The needs of healthcare professionals are often at the forefront of medical table design, influencing many features such as a flat surface, multiple position adjustments, a variety of accessory options, and more.

Historically, patient exam tables were typically made with wood and a flat top. While these tables were functional, they were difficult to use and required caregivers to physically lift patients onto the equipment. Today, patients and clinicians can easily access medical exam tables through a power backrest that moves the patient from their seated position into an examination position without any physical lifting. This ergonomic advancement helps to reduce the strain on caregivers, ensuring their health and safety.

Medical exam tables also feature a wide selection of color options for the upholstery that enables a practice to find a color that matches their facility’s decor and aesthetics. Some materials, such as woven vinyl, are made thicker to stand up to hard and heavy usage, while others are designed with a softer feel for more sensitive skin patients. The choice of fabric for a medical exam table’s upholstery can help to reduce bacteria growth and inhibit the spread of infectious diseases. Some upholstered exam tables feature stitching that could become snagged, creating an environment for harboring bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause HAIs. Exam tables with seamless upholstery that are easier to clean and disinfect, on the other hand, are less likely to harbor such contaminants.

Another popular option for medical exam tables is a drain pan and drawer heater, which can help prevent spills and ensure that patients are comfortable. Medical exam tables that offer the ability to add these accessories can greatly improve a practitioner’s workflow while maintaining optimal cleanliness and efficiency.

Many of the latest medical exam tables also include barrier-free configurations that allow wheelchairs and walkers to roll up to the side of the table so patients can easily access the device with minimal assistance. Such configurations enhance a patient’s sense of independence and dignity while reducing their stress and helping caregivers avoid unnecessary workers’ compensation claims.


Exam tables have come a long way since the days when blacksmiths and physicians used wooden table tops to examine their patients. The modern version of this vital equipment provides much more comfort to patients and medical professionals.

Unlike traditional box-type tables, today’s exam tables have a lot more flexibility when it comes to mobility. In fact, some can even be adjusted in different positions and configured to perform treatments like massages. This means that the patient can be moved from one position to another with little or no effort. This type of functionality can be especially helpful for wheelchair-bound or disabled patients. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 54 percent of medical practices have reported that patients with disabilities skipped parts of their examination because they were not able to transfer onto traditional exam tables.

In addition to providing better mobility for wheelchair-bound or disabled patients, many exam tables can also be adjusted in height. This can help reduce stress on nurses and healthcare workers. Overexertion is the most common work-related injury among healthcare staff and can result in a variety of health problems. Exam tables with height-adjustment capabilities eliminate the need for unnatural bending, lifting, and twisting to reach treatment tools and can also increase the ease of performing physical therapy.

Consider a flat exam treatment table if you’re looking for an affordable option that offers simple mobility. This style of table is ideal for nurse’s offices and is available in a wide variety of base materials, colors, and upholstery options. Flat exam tables can often be fitted with cabinets for extra storage capacity. Eco-friendly versions of these popular tables are gaining popularity, and many feature more sustainable hardwoods. These models are a great choice for environmentally conscious healthcare clinics and can provide patients with a more comfortable experience.

For more advanced mobility options, consider a Hi-Lo exam table. These powerful and versatile tables can move from a standing to a reclining position with the flip of a switch. They are also designed to accommodate various patients, including bariatric individuals. In addition, many models of Hi-Lo exam tables are available with removable or adjustable head and foot sections so that the patient can easily be moved from a wheelchair directly to the table.


A medical exam table is a central piece of equipment in many clinical settings. When it comes time to buy a new one, the healthcare facility staff should take the time to evaluate functional features, comfort, and sanitation.

Functional features help ensure the patient can be safely and easily positioned for various medical exams and procedures. For example, a bariatric medical exam table offers a wider surface to accommodate larger patients, while pediatric tables feature brightly colored, child-friendly motifs to reduce children’s anxiety during their appointments. Additionally, some tables offer electrical outlets and can articulate to allow patients to be seated in different positions.

When it comes to sanitation, the best medical exam tables are easy to clean and disinfect. These tables should be able to be cleaned with hospital-grade cleaners and disinfectants that will not damage the vinyl upholstery. Medical-grade cleaning solutions can also be applied to the folds and crevices where dust, bacteria, and other contaminants linger.

Having a durable, high-quality exam table is crucial to the success of a medical clinic or other healthcare organization. By implementing a rigorous cleaning and disinfection schedule, medical professionals can prevent the spread of infections to patients.

The table itself must be easy to clean and disinfect, but it is important not to overlook frequently touched components of the equipment, including drawer warmer switches, back release handles, and stirrups. These areas should be cleaned and disinfected daily, if not between every patient.

In addition, a durable and versatile exam table should be compatible with a wide range of accessories to allow for a variety of exams and treatments. For instance, some tables include removable upholstered tops that are easy to clean, while others feature a built-in storage area to keep supplies like towels and medical tape nearby. For safety and convenience, some tables include a foot pedal to adjust the height of the padded surface. These features can make a big difference in the overall usability of the exam table and increase efficiency for the medical staff.


In the past, medical professionals had to make do with a variety of outdated exam tables that left patients uncomfortable and physicians frustrated. But times have changed. Modern medical exam tables feature a host of comfort and efficiency enhancements that leave doctors and patients happy.

Medical-grade upholstery and durable frames ensure that your power and manual exam tables will be able to handle the demands of busy practices. Exam tables that are upholstered with stains, tears, or exposed foam can create a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Keeping your exam room table looking its best also helps maintain patient safety and minimizes the spread of infection.

A key factor to consider when choosing an exam table is its weight. The weight of a table will influence how easy it is to move the table in and out of the exam room, as well as how much force is required to maneuver the table into position for each patient. Ideally, the weight of an exam table should be low enough to allow one person to lift it easily and high enough to support a large number of heavier patients.

Exam tables that feature multiple positions provide a range of options for doctors to perform various procedures on their patients. This flexibility allows for more efficient exams and treatment sessions. Additionally, it reduces the time needed for each procedure and increases patient satisfaction.

Many power exam tables also feature ergonomic features designed to support Safe Patient Handling initiatives. These include a wide range of adjustable height settings to accommodate different patients’ needs and convenient storage bins and drawers for holding medical supplies and equipment.

Whether your facility requires a simple, straightforward examination table or a more sophisticated, versatile model, ALVA Beauty offers a wide selection of high-quality exam tables to fit the needs of any practice. Contact a DRE representative today to get started finding the right medical exam table for your facility. Our knowledgeable team will help you select the ideal option to maximize the comfort of your patients and the efficiency of your exam rooms.

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