How to Use a Stethoscope

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Medicine's Simple Marvel
Perhaps one of the greatest abilities in today's medical world is the ability doctors and nurses have to listen to heartbeats, pulses, and breathing patterns with simplicity. It doesn't require any high-tech equipment. It doesn't require a myriad of tests and examinations. It doesn't cost thousands of dollars per minute to operate. In fact, the abilities that I just mentioned are made possible by this instrument: a stethoscope.

The stethoscope that we know today is not the stethoscope that was invented nearly 200 years ago. In 1816, a young physician in Paris, France, named R.T.H. Laennec, created the first recorded stethoscope, thanks to his noble convictions. You see, Dr. Laennec was examining a female patient, and was embarrassed to put his ear to her chest. This was common practice among physicians in this time period, but Laennec was simply resistant. Instead, he recalled that sound travels through solid materials. He rolled up 24 sheets of paper, and placed one end to his patient's chest. The other end he placed to his ear, and to his amazement, listened to the noises of her chest cavity. Not only could he hear the sounds his patient was making, he noticed the sounds were louder and clearer.

Of course, Laennec's design was much like a paper towel tube, so it is not at all representative of this instrument: the modern binaural stethoscope. This design was created only years after the creation of the stethoscope and it has evolved into some pretty complex, highly-technical, rather pricey models we see on the market today. However, the basic operation of any stethoscope is essentially the same. In order to realize the full benefits of using a stethoscope, there are some basic rules one must follow.

First, you should become familiar with the parts of your stethoscope. These are called the ear tips. They position comfortably in the outer ear, much like a headphone or a cellular phone earpiece may. The tubing follows downward, and...
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