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The first 200 years of cardiac auscultation and future perspectives

Authors Montinari MR, Minelli S

Received 8 November 2018

Accepted for publication 17 December 2018

Published 6 March 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 183—189

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S193904

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Cristina Weinberg

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser


Maria Rosa Montinari,1 Sergio Minelli2

1Department of Biological and Environmental Science and Technology, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy; 2Department of Cardiology, Local Health Unit Lecce, Lecce, Italy

Abstract: Cardiac auscultation – even with its limitations – is still a valid and economical technique for the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, and despite the growing demand for sophisticated imaging techniques, clinical use of the stethoscope in medical practice has not yet been abandoned. In 1816, René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec invented the stethoscope, while examining a young woman with suspected heart disease, giving rise to mediated auscultation. He described in detail several heart and lung sounds, correlating them with postmortem pathology. Even today, a correct interpretation of heart sounds, integrated with the clinical history and physical examination, allows to detect properly most of the structural heart abnormalities or to evaluate them in a differential diagnosis. However, the lack of organic teaching of auscultation and its inadequate practice have a negative impact on the clinical competence of physicians in training, also reflecting a diminished academic interest in physical semiotic. Medical simulation could be an effective instructional tool in teaching and deepening auscultation. Handheld ultrasound devices could be used for screening or for integrating and improving auscultatory abilities of physicians; the electronic stethoscope, with its new digital capabilities, will help to achieve a correct diagnosis. The availability of innovative representations of the sounds with phono- and spectrograms provides an important aid in diagnosis, in teaching practice and pedagogy. Technological innovations, despite their undoubted value, must complement and not supplant a complete physical examination; clinical auscultation remains an important and cost-effective screening method for the physicians in cardiorespiratory diagnosis. Cardiac auscultation has a future, and the stethoscope has not yet become a medical heirloom.

Keywords: auscultation, stethoscope, medical history, medical sciences, cardiac physical examination

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