Today class, the question for you to answer is: “what can any person hang around their neck and listen to a heart beating or a chest rattling?” Well, it looks like most of you got the correct answer. It’s a stethoscope! Probably, the most recognizable of all the pieces of medical equipment a doctor will ever use. Even the smallest child would most likely know that this instrument is representative of a doctor. But what do most of you in this class really know about a stethoscope and its usage? Well, if you will bear with me today, you will know more about this type of medical equipment than most folks in town.
And the Inventor is?
In 1816 the inventor of the stethoscope, René Laennec, was a very shy doctor in France. On one appointment he was examining a young woman who had been complaining of heart problems. At that time in history, doctors generally listened to a patients’ heartbeat by resting one of their ears against the chest of the patient. But doctor René was also very conservative and thought using this method to be improper under the circumstances, especially because she was also overweight. Doctor René excused himself for a moment, rolled up a large piece of paper into a “tube” and pressed it against her chest allowing him to not only hear the sounds of her heart but the breathing of her lungs, too. His sudden inspiration was simple enough; he used to play the flute. After being successful with the rolled up paper, he soon replaced paper with a home-made hollow wooden tube; naming his new invention the “stethoscope.”
And The Beat Goes On!
By the late 1850s, the stethoscope became a valuable addition to a doctor’s vital tools. It was easier to listen and diagnose all the sounds from the chest of a person. By the 1890s, the hollow wooden tube was replaced by rubber and now the plastic binaural stethoscope, pretty much like they are used today. Thanks to doctor Rene’ his invention makes it possible to listen to the chest and other parts of the body such as the bowels and during a pregnancy. Actually, electronic stethoscopes that amplify the sounds in the chest and produce graphs were first introduced in the early 1970s and continue to be refined to this day. No doubt about it, folks. A stethoscope around the neck has turned out to be one of most popular images of the medical profession.
The Evolution of the Stethoscope!
Once the word spread about the birth of the stethoscope and the advances being make to improve doctor Rene’s invention it was swiftly adopted across France as well as other parts of Europe. Prior to the invention arriving in the United States, he died of tuberculosis at the age of 45 in the year 1826. The good news is that doctor Rene’ was aware of the importance of his discovery; calling it “the greatest legacy of my life”. Later on the first commercial stethoscope made of India rubber and wood, hit the marketplace. That didn’t last long since it was very fragile to be used properly. Several years later a New York-based doctor adapted the design that was made of ivory earpieces connected to a metal tube held together by a small hinge.
The Stethoscope and it’s Uses!
The ability to amplify sounds of the lungs, heart and overall chest area of the body was a major plus. It also reduced the amount of medical cases that had been misdiagnosed by the medical society. In the 1940s the stethoscope was greatly improved by creating a two-sided device that could be used for both respiratory and cardiological purposes. Later on in the 1950s and 1970s a Harvard Medical School professor came up with a lighter stethoscope design that improved the acoustic sound.
Basically, the stethoscope is an instrument used to listen to sounds that your body produces. For the most part, it is used to listen to lungs, heart and the intestinal tract. Another use would be to listen to blood flow in peripheral vessels and the heart sounds of a developing fetus in pregnant women. Stethoscopes can also be valuable in detecting not only sounds in a human body, but animals as well.
Note: From reading this article one can plainly see that without the invention of the stethoscope those in any type of medical business would be up a creek without a paddle. And, as scientific discoveries continue to expand, in terms of available materials, the flexibility and texture of stethoscopes will continue to change. The fact is that physicians who depend and wear a stethoscope around their neck, it is important that they are lightweight, durable, and comfortable. Today, a doctor or any other person requiring a stethoscope can now choose between acoustic and electronic. However, soon medical personnel will be choosing and taking advantage of electronic stethoscopes compared to acoustic. Electronics can amplify low sounds often not heard by the ear or by using acoustic alone. Although many doctors don’t honor it, the stethoscope they are using should be cleaned after each use in order to avoid the spread of infection or disease.