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(covers information from several alternate timelines)
The medical tricorder was a specialized version of the standard Starfleet tricorder. It was equipped with sensors and analysis software tailored for medical diagnostic purposes. They were usually the first tool a Starfleet doctor utilized when assessing a patient's condition. Medical tricorders could function aboard ship in sickbay as well as on away missions. (TOS: "The Man Trap")
Medical tricorders were in use aboard Starfleet vessels as early as the mid-22nd century. In 2153, Doctor Phlox noted that Sim had disassembled Phlox's medical tricorder, when commenting on his aptitude for engineering. (ENT: "Similitude")
Medical tricorders used throughout the years have been essentially similar in design to that of the standard tricorder, with the same available features and interface. The major difference is the addition of a deployable hand scanner. While some standard tricorders also have removable scanners, the medical tricorder's is much more advanced and can provide detailed scans of an entire individual, or give focus to a single area. (TOS: "The Man Trap"; TNG: "When The Bough Breaks")
It is not necessary to use the scanner for the tricorder to function. The scanner can be separated from the tricorder, either to feed data to another source (TNG: "Up The Long Ladder") or not be attached to the tricorder at all. (DS9: "Babel")
While the suite of sensors installed on medical tricorders is advanced, it is generally no substitute for the advanced and specialized equipment in a sickbay facility. Although very accurate on the living, it is taught in the first year of Starfleet Medical School that medical tricorders are not as accurate on the dead. (TNG: "Genesis", "All Good Things..."; DS9: "The Passenger")
Although tricorders in general are widely available to starship personnel, medical tricorders are not normally made available to non-medical personnel outside sickbay. Despite this, hypochondriac William Telfer managed to obtain one for his own personal use on the USS Voyager. (VOY: "Good Shepherd")
In 2258 of the alternate reality, the medical tricorder consisted of a scanning rod and handheld feedback monitor. (Star Trek) The following year, the scanner had been redesigned into a white oval-shape reminiscent of the previous monitor, and could be stored inside a normal tricorder. (Star Trek Into Darkness)
In 2374, Seven of Nine described a medical tricorder she imagined in the following manner: "Duritanium casing. Seven point six centimetres by nine point eight centimetres by three point two centimetres. Alphanumeric display" (VOY: "Retrospect")