Why do doctors use stethoscopes?

Written by aja rivers
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Why do doctors use stethoscopes?
(Photo by deanjenkins on morgueFile.com)

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A Brief History

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by a Frenchman, Dr. Rene Laennec. This was a monaural device, meaning it had only one listening tube, with a bell chest piece. In 1852, Dr. George Cammann of New York invented the first widely-used binaural (two listening tubes) stethoscope. In 1926, Howard Sprague of Boston designed a stethoscope with the first combination bell and diaphragm chest piece. In 1961, Dr. David Littmann, a Massachusetts cardiologist, designed a modern, lightweight binaural stethoscope with a two-sided chest piece that remains popular today.

A Doctor's Listening Device

The stethoscope is a diagnostic tool used by a doctor for auscultation (listening to body sounds). Auscultation with a stethoscope is one of the first things a doctor does when performing a medical examination. The doctor places the two ear pieces into his ears and may warn you that the chest piece could feel cold before placing it on your body.

Taking Blood Pressure

A doctor or nurse uses a stethoscope to listen for restored blood flow when taking your blood pressure. He will place the bell over your arm's brachial artery while the blood pressure test is performed.

Heart Beat

A doctor will use the stethoscope on your chest to listen to your heart beat so she can detect abnormalities, such as a heart murmur or rapid heart beat.

Lung Sounds

A doctor uses a stethoscope on your back to listen to lung sounds for signs of wheezing, rales, congestion or other breathing abnormalities. He may ask you to take deep breaths during this part of the examination.

Stomach Sounds

A doctor may also use a stethoscope on your abdomen to listen to stomach sounds. Blockages or irregular gastrointestinal movement can be detected this way.

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