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7 Cool Facts About Stethoscope

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Stethoscopes are clearly one of the most iconic symbols of the medical profession. It is commonplace to walk into any health facility or hospital and see a few hanging around.

Many times, doctors even keep one around themselves wherever they are, in their cars, homes, offices, and even in their hand luggage when traveling.

The reason behind this is that they are very versatile and simple, helping the doctor arrive at a diagnosis of many conditions quickly and efficiently.

In this article, we will be discussing 7 cool facts you probably didn’t know about this medical tool, and at the end of this post, you’ll have added a lot to your knowledge.

Let’s dive right in.

1. They were invented by a French man

In 1816, the stethoscope was invented by a French physician René Laennec. His version was almost entirely different from what we have to do. It more or less looked like a trumpet with a single earpiece. His idea was simple, one day, when he folded paper into a tube and placed on the chest of a patient, he found out that he could hear the chest sounds clearly. He named the process of using a stethoscope ‘auscultation’ from the word ‘auscultare’ which means ‘listen’

With time, more physicians suggested improvements on this design, and a couple of decades later, stethoscopes contained two ear tips for each ear to improve the quality of sound doctors could listen to.

2. Before the stethoscope invention, listening to the chest was a bit weird

Before Rene Laennec came up with his invention, physicians used to listen to the heart and lungs by placing their ears directly on the patient’s chest. This was a little bit uncomfortable for physicians if the patient was overweight or of the opposite sex because it required close physical contact, and sometimes in obese patients, the heart sounds were not as clear.

3. It has three main parts

Today, the design of stethoscopes is a lot more modern. Usually, it has three main parts:

  • The headset
  • The tubing
  • The chest piece

The headset contains the two ear tubes and two ear tips. It serves to transmit sounds from the tubing down to the physician’s ears.

The tubing is made from a flexible material. It isolates the sound gotten from the chest piece, taking it to the headset with minimal noise addition.

The chest piece of stethoscopes is the part that is in contact with the patient’s body. It usually contains a diaphragm that picks up sound vibrations, then moves this sound to the flexible tubing through its stem.

Nowadays, the electronic ones have a special kind of chest piece that amplifies sound and simultaneously decrease the background noise using special technology. You can check electronic stethoscope reviews here.

4. The headset follows the human ear anatomy

If you thought that the ears were a straight canal that is completely horizontal, you’re very wrong. The truth is that the ear canal is S-shaped, and is directed inwards and downwards towards the middle ear. This is why the headsets of stethoscopes seem to be positioned in a way that the ear tips face forward and downwards.

5. Doctors rely on them extensively for heart examinations

Stethoscopes are regularly used for chest examinations that involve the heart. They are used to accurately count a person’s heart rate, listen for abnormal heart sounds like murmurs, and identify when a person’s heartbeat goes out of the normal rhythm.

If a person has a chest pain that comes and goes without any other obvious sign, doctors can quickly check with a stethoscope for any abnormal heartbeat or unusual sound before deciding what the diagnosis is.

6. They easily help in the diagnosis of lung problems

Stethoscopes are the go-to tool for physically examining the lungs. There are many different diagnoses that can be gotten just by listening to the chest with a stethoscope. For example, asthma and bronchopneumonia are typically identified based on the characteristic sounds they produce when you listen to the chest.

It is important to note that doctors also use certain information and other examinations before concluding on their diagnosis, they do not rely only on these tools. They ask several questions relating to the patient’s complaint and may ask for special X-rays or scans to aid the diagnosis.

For example, someone who’s been smoking cigarettes or hookah may present with a chronic cough of several weeks (hookah is as bad as cigarette smoking), doctors will ask many details like how much of tobacco was smoked, how often the patient smoked, and then listen to the chest for any abnormal sounds. The doctor could also send the patient for X-rays before making a diagnosis.

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7. They provide a means to measure blood pressure directly

Before the advent of digital blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes were commonly used in conjunction with manual sphygmomanometers to measure blood pressure.

To do this, a health professional will apply a cuff to the patient’s arm, inflate it quickly, then deflate it slowly while applying the chest piece of the stethoscope to the junction between the arm and forearm.

As the pressure in the cuff declines, the medical professional will listen closely for some tapping sounds while checking the pressure reading on the scale.

Guest Post by Dr. Charles-Davies of 25 Doctors.

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