Saturday, July 11, 2009

Electronic stethoscopes

In the future, will all the doctors use electronic stethoscopes? Have you ever tried an electronic stethoscope? They're amazing! Technology has made it possible to enhance certain sounds and to really improve auscultation. My wife and I both have stethoscopes made by 3M Littmann. They aren't electronic - just the old fashioned acoustic-style models that are light and reliable. I'd love to have an electronic stethoscope but they're still very expensive!

If you're a medical student or resident, you may find that you can learn so much more by using an electronic stethoscope. Are they worth the price premium? Maybe if you're a cardiologist. Or, perhaps you actually plan to use that stethoscope all the time. Because we live in an era where diagnostic imaging is so readily available, we're all losing our physical exam skills. Someday, we may hardly use a stethoscope because we'll have so many other bedside tools available at our disposal. Forget about percussing the chest! Just grab an ultrasound to check for fluid. Need to check for a consolidation? Grab a quickie X-Ray/CT that's built into the bed. All you have to do is step out for a few seconds. Auscultating the heart? No need! Grab that 3D color echo and you'll have all the data you need.

As technology improves medical care, will stethoscopes become a thing of the past?

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