Stethoscope a device used to listen heartbeats has been iconic symbol of doctors since past 200 years. One cannot imagine doctor without a stethoscope around his/her neck, but an Indian-origin cardiologist in the US believes that the simple heartbeat listening device might just be dead. The claim came after seeing the increasing trend for use of electronic devices like echocardiograms that are as small as the stethoscope and are several times more efficient.
Modern stethoscope do use digitised circuitry that can remove noise and magnify the signal to aid doctors in diagnosis. In addition, engineers have developed several highly advanced algorithms that analyse data provided through stethoscope and provide a better diagnosis. Apart from all these, experts and cardiologists believe that the device is of no use now and will get obsolete very soon. Most of the cardiologists now use echocardiograms and pocket-sized ultrasound devices instead of iconic stethoscope to check the heartbeats.
Jagat Narula, a cardiologist and associate dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said that the time for the stethoscope is gone and it is dead. Several hospitals including Mount Sarai started training their students with mobile sized ultrasound devices instead of stethoscopes since 2012. The ultrasound devices can also generate real-time images of heart while it is beating, which conventional stethoscope cannot. Seeing these benefits, all other hospitals will also start using stethoscope alternatives, says Narula.
Although some believe that stethoscope might be dead, but some still are in favour of the device and believe that stethoscopes are crucial and easy to use for listening to the lungs. Still it will take another decade to completely replace the stethoscope’s sound by the imaging device, says W. Reid Thompson an associate professor of paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He further added that stethoscope is a valuable asset to doctors and has been an icon which can’t be replaced so easily and claiming it to be dead is completely false.
However, it was accepted that not all doctors are good at using the stethoscope. A study conducted back in 1997 that included 453 physicians in training and 88 medical students had found that most of the doctors were unable to appropriately identify 12 important and common events. While new devices are easy to use and help doctors in identifying cardiac event with better accuracy. Thus, experts believe that use new devices will continue to rise, but stethoscope will reign as of now.