Are Stethoscopes Soon Going to Be Obsolete?
Some believe that the familiar image of a medical doctor in a white lab coat with a stethoscope dangling from his or her neck may be a vision of the past. They believe that the newer technologies currently on the market are getting to a point where stethoscopes may no longer be needed.
We believe they are wrong for a variety of reasons. One reason is that stethoscopes are both simple and versatile. Most people associate the stethoscope with heart and lung function only. What many may not realize however is that this vital piece of equipment has a number of different uses.
One of the regular uses for stethoscopes is listening to the heart. Cardiology stethoscopes like the Littmann Master Cardiology and Littmann Cardiology III particularly shine in this area. By using these stethoscopes, doctors can tell if a patient has a heart murmur, an irregular heartbeat or the likelihood of heart failure. Doctors also use the stethoscope to listen to the lungs. This means that this equipment can be used to tell if there is fluid in the lungs or if the airway passages constricted.
Doctors can also use the stethoscope to listen to the bowel. Cases of digestive disorders and malfunction in the bowels can be diagnosed by simply listening to the bowel with a stethoscope. Another great function is that it can be used by pediatricians to listen to the heartbeats of the fetus in the womb. This versatility is not found in some of the new alternatives being utilized.
Alternatives to the Stethoscope
Two features of medical practice in the present dispensation are positive changes and innovation. In this context, it is clear that there are many tools and equipment at the disposal of the present day medical practitioner. Some years ago, things like the CT scan, ultrasonography and electrocardiography were not as common as they are now. Fortunately, these developments are positive changes and they can be used in the interest of humanity. Many though believe that these new machines and procedures can take the place of the stethoscope in future. In the opinion of this writer, new machines and modern equipment may have their uses but they cannot replace the stethoscope.
Understanding the Limitations of Other Equipment:
As stated already, the simple stethoscope has the great advantage of versatility. Other medical equipment out there do not have this advantage and this is why they cannot replace the stethoscope. To understand this clearly, it is important to look at some of these machines and equipment and point out the limitations of each one.
X-Ray and CT scan:
The X-Ray and the CT scan can be used to get images of certain parts of the body. These images can be interpreted by the doctor and used for effective diagnosis. For heart patients, an image of an enlarged heart may be a sign of heart disease but it is not usually conclusive. On the other hand, the stethoscope can be used to diagnose heart problems with fairly accurate results. There is also the vital fact that while the stethoscope can be used on pregnant women, the CT scan and the X-Ray are not recommended for pregnant women.
Electrocardiography (ECG) and Spirometry:
In the practice of medicine, it does not follow that complex procedures are better or more effective than simple ones. In this context, doctors may not recommend an electrocardiography or a spirometry without trying to listen to the heart and lungs with the stethoscope. In most cases, if there is a problem with the heart or the lungs, the doctor can detect this by using the stethoscope to listen to these organs.
The point here is that the stethoscope will not become obsolete any time soon. The stethoscope is a multi-function equipment. It is simply irreplaceable because it can be used to do a lot of different things in the interest of the patient.
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