Ahh, the humble stethoscope. That rather awkward looking piece of medical equipment you see around your GP’s neck and the necks of all doctors in any hospital-themed soap opera ever created.
And, whilst they may often look like the cliche prop used by the likes of Grey’s Anatomy’s McDreamy and, say, Scrubs’ JD, they are actually one of the most essential and versatile pieces of medical equipment you’ll find in a medical setting.
So, without further ado, here are seven imperative applications for the humble-yet-outrageously vital stethoscope and its similar cardiology stethoscope:
- They can determine lung sounds
As this essential medical equipment can read the heartbeat, they can tell if the heart is beating properly. Through comprehending the standard rate of the patient and comparing it during the time of illness, the medic can tell if the patient is breathing properly and, if not, whether there is any air blockage causing lung inflammation.
This form of lung checkup includes listening to the six chest paired areas and seven back paired areas. Once these are checked it becomes easier to detect any issues within the lungs.
- They can determine heart sounds
They are, naturally, essential to detecting any sounds in the heart. GPs and other medics can comprehend if there are “gallops” or “murmurs” in the heartbeat. However, this is not easy to locate, and so GPs may take time to identify the heart sounds appropriate, checking the aortic, tricuspid, pulmonic and mitral before providing medication.
- They can measure liver size
This might sound bizarre, but it’s completely true: this equipment can and will measure your liver size. But how? It’s this strange listening device, how can it possibly measure one’s liver?
Well, it’s quite simple, really: it does so by measuring the liver’s vertical length from the nipple line. To do so, the index finger must be positioned in the nipple line, around where the belt sits, with the stethoscope then inserted beneath the right nipple.
Once this occurs, the equipment will produce a small sound while the finger is positioned atop the liver. By calculating the length and marking these two points, the medic can gauge the size of your liver.
Okay, maybe it’s not that simple, but for professional medics it’s a straightforward procedure done on a very regular basis.
- It can be used to aid the deaf
Doctors may utilise this equipment to help people with hearing difficulty to hear more clearly and may also use it as a hearing aid by talking through it.
- They can be used to calculate blood pressure
GPs can attach a blood pressure cuff on the upper arm before placing this vital equipment below it to listen to the heartbeat. They analyse the systolic and diastolic pressure and read it when the Korotkoff sounds are initially heard until reduced.
- They can measure bowel sounds
This equipment is imperative for checking irregular bowel sounds, as well as being important for paralytic ileus and bowel blockage cases. Borborygmi are loud gurgling or bubbling sounds that are typically innocuous and can be avoided.
- They can find bruits
Bruits are, basically, the soft whooshing sounds that happen when blood passes through one’s artery. This sound is unwanted and indicates that the artery has narrowed, as it has caused a disrupted blood flow. This condition can be detected in the iliac, femoral, kidneys and umbilicus as well as the temporal arteries. GPs and health professionals examine these areas through their stethoscope before providing the correct medication.