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Smart Stethoscope Saves Lives

WASHINGTON (Ivanhoe Newswire) --It might be cold on your skin, but during a physical exam a doctor’s stethoscope is one of the best ways to listen to your lungs and heart, and help diagnose some illnesses. Next, learn about a smart stethoscope that simulates sounds of the body.

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The sound of a healthy heartbeat is easy to recognize. Using a stethoscope, doctors listen to heart and lung sounds in patients – certain sounds can tell doctors a lot about a patient's health.

“They might hear a murmur which is an abnormal heart sound, with a cardiac condition. They may hear wheezing, with a patient having acute asthma,” Thomas W. Hubbard, M.D., Pediatrician at Eastern Virginia Medical School told Ivanhoe.

Experienced doctors know a whooshing sound could be a clogged artery, but young medical students need help in diagnosing illnesses. Now, a new training stethoscope plays the sounds of sick patients, for soon-to-be-doctors.

“Yeah, I can definitely hear that whooshing noise,” one student said.

Medical schools train students using actors skilled at pretending to be sick. The virtual pathology stethoscope lets students hear sick sounds from an otherwise healthy patient.

"We can setup a case where they may be having certain symptoms that would suggest a cardiac problem, and then when students examine them they will actually hear heart sounds that would confirm that," Dr. Hubbard said.

The pretend patient pushes a button triggering sounds from a device developed by engineers and doctors. It sends sounds wirelessly into the stethoscope. The sounds are recorded directly from sick patients or from a database of diseases. Students listening through the stethoscope hear things like crackling sounds in the lungs, which could be a sign of pneumonia or congestive heart failure.

“Now we can give healthy patients or healthy people those illnesses and then the medical students can practice and diagnose these illnesses," Rick McKenzie, Ph.D., Engineer at Old Dominion University added.

Hearing realistic sounds of the sick helps students become better doctors, ready for real world patients with real life diseases.

“They will have exposure to such a wide variety of pathological conditions in their medical school training," Dr. Hubbard concluded.

It’s a sound training session for future doctors. Researchers are also developing another stethoscope that senses and tracks on the body where the stethoscope is placed. That way the appropriate sound can be cued to be played, without the need for the actor to trigger it.

The Acoustical Society of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Frederic (Rick) D. McKenzie, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Director, Modeling, Simulation, &
Visualization Engineering Dept.
Joint Appointment, Electrical & Computer Engineering Dept.
Old Dominion University

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