The stethoscope is a vital tool of the doctors bag and healthcare professionals alike. First invented in France in 1816, it consisted of a wooden tube and was monaural. Fast forward over two hundred years, the stethoscope has held on to its foundations but has taken itself into the 21st century where now sounds can be recorded, played back to patients and even the heartbeat per minute can be displayed without the arduous task of counting. In today’s story I discuss my experience of using a bluetooth electronic stethoscope and just how does it compare to a more traditional stethoscope.
Reflecting back as a medical student, during our ward rounds, if a patient had pathology such as fluid on the lungs or added heart sounds, we would all take out our own stethoscope and take it in turns to listen. Although the patients were more than happy to be contributing to our learning we almost always felt we were a burden especially if you were the fifth one to ask the patient to breath in and out. Of course this learning was paramount to our success and indeed in an era before YouTube there was simply no other way to find out what an ‘ejection systolic murmur’ sounded like and so, thanks to this, during our clinical exams we were well placed to diagnose our patients.
Now I find myself, as a General Practitioner, on the other end of the spectrum. I have a fair number of patients intrigued about what their heart sounds like or even their lungs, especially those who have been told in the past they have interesting signs. So, unable to provide this experience to said patients with my traditional stethoscope, I ventured out into the unfamiliar territory of electronic stethoscopes.
Purchasing the Littmann bluetooth stethoscope was considerably more expensive than its non-digital counter part, approximately 5–6 times dearer.
Digital vs non-digital stethoscope
For this I have sound clips of both stethoscopes.
Is it worth it?
There are a number of features that make the electronic stethoscope stand in good stead:
- Great for learning, especially as a medical student or higher level examinations
- It allows for 12 thirty second clip recordings
- There is an ability to toggle between the diaphragm/ bell or both
- Comfortable ear pieces, with two available sizes in the box
- There is a reduction in ambient noise
- On screen display of heart rate
- Battery powered x1 AA (included)
- 2 years manufacturer’s warranty
- Easy to transfer files to the computer.
Of course, as with any product there are some cons:
- It is fairly expensive compared to a traditional stethoscope
- Limited colours are available — black, burgundy, navy blue
- It is heavier
- Files cannot be transferred over to mobile devices
- Doesn’t work well on damp skin, which may be an issue for patients who are hot and clammy.
Certainly, I would say, if you’re interested in learning more about particular heart, lung or bowel sounds, this is a great tool. Or if you are a teacher wishing to illustrate pathology to your students, then this is perfect. The memory function, would serve medical students, or even post graduates well for exam preparation. For myself, as a General Practitioner, I will continue to use my non-digital stethoscope day to day and take out this special scope for those interesting pathologies or for my patients curiosity.
I hope that you have found this article helpful.
Take care and stay healthy,
Dr Nora x
Please note that the contents of this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or medical condition.