It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced medic, a beginner or student; when it comes to diagnosing an illness, you need to be right on your first take. And while accuracy is important, time can also make a big difference in your quest to save a life.
Only excellent medical tools can help detect health irregularities. Abnormal breath and bowel sounds, anomalous heart rhythm, and even presence of liquid in the lungs cannot be detected by direct or immediate auscultation. It really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the medical field; you are only as good as the tool on your neck.
In this review, we will talk everything cardiology stethoscopes. We check its history, configuration and function, pros and cons and why you should or not choose it.
Overview of Cardiology Stethoscope
Did you know that the first stethoscope invented was a cardiac steth?
Much is known about the simple wooden scope created in 1816 by Rene’ Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec in a Paris hospital. However, before this advancement, Laennec had created a stethoscope by rolling paper into a cone and using it for auscultation on a female patient instead of immediate (direct) auscultation. This was actually the world’s very first stethoscope.
How strange is it that Laennec created a medical tool just to avoid physical body contact with his female patient?
Well, advancement has seen this simple tool develop into a standard medical tool with a chest piece and double ear piece configuration.
How a Cardiology Stethoscope Work
To begin, let’s talk about the parts of the stethoscope. There are eight main parts.
- The chest piece
This is the ‘centre stage’ for the whole stethoscope. The chestpiece holds other important parts of the scope; i.e. the diaphragm, stem and in some models, a bell. This is the only part that communicates directly with the patient.
Different models have different types of chest pieces. Some steths have a double-sided chest piece with a diaphragm and bell. The diaphragm is used to detect high frequency sounds while the bell is used for low frequency sounds.
Other chest pieces have a single side. Instead of having a bell, they have a tuneable diaphragm that detects different sound frequencies depending on the pressure applied on them. The 3M Littman stethoscope brand is famous for this technology.
Chest piece designs have non-slip surfaces and non-chill rims to ensure patients are comfortable.
This is the wider, flat surface part of the chest piece. It can be oval or circular in shape.
Traditional stethoscopes have a double chest piece. The diaphragm is on one side and is used to detect high pitch sounds. The bell is on the other side and is used to detect low pitch sounds, especially in infants and elderly patients.
Modern stethoscopes have incorporated the bell functions in their diaphragm. This tuneable diaphragm technology allow for a multi-frequency listen. With only variation in pressure applied on the chest piece, you can listen to both high pitch and low frequency sounds.
- The stem
This part connects the tubing and the chest piece. Modern steths have a rotating stem and some even allow the headset to be replaced.
Steths with a rotating stem usually have double-side chest pieces. The steths allow the clinician to switch from the diaphragm to the bell without twisting the tubing. This reduces the noise often made from during the switch and also saves time. Steths with these features come at a higher price.
Some stethoscope stems come in different colors. This is important especially when you need the steth specifically for cardiology use.
These are flexible rubber, silicon, neoprene or PVC that attach to the ear piece. The tubes carry sound from the patient;s body part to the physician’s ears.
- Ear tubes
These are also called binaural. The tubes are mostly metal and connect the ear tips to the flexible tubing. Ear tubes are the main auscultation unit. They make a stethoscope a multidimensional auscultation unit by enabling clinicians to listen to body sounds using both ears.
- Ear tips
This is the part of the stethoscope that goes into the clinician’s ears. The design of ear tips vary in different steths. You can choose silicon or rubber ear tips. If you wish, you can opt for custom-made ear tips.
- Head set
The head set consist of the binaural, ear tips and the tubing. The head set enables the physician have a comfortable wear.
The bell is used to make low abnormal cardiac or bowel sound clearer. Tuneable diaphragm stethoscopes don’t need a bell.
Difference Between a Cardiology Stethoscope and a Normal Stethoscope
Cardiology is the medical unit that specifically deals with heart abnormalities or diseases. A cardiology stethoscope is used to listen heart murmurs in patients. It can also be used to hear lung sounds.
Because of its demanding use, the cardiology stethoscope is slightly different from the regular stethoscope.
- They have softer, more pliable ear tips.
Cardiology stethoscopes have softer ear tip materials. They therefore stay in the ears better and more comfortably. The ear tips bar outside noise better and do not carelessly fall off.
- Durable, replaceable headsets
Generally, cardiology models have durable headsets. However, most models don’t have head sets that are as durable as the chest piece. Therefore, manufacturers usually sell replacement headsets.
- Dual lumen tubing
Cardiology steths have a dual lumen tubing. This makes the sound experience wider. The steth can transmit a wider range of sounds. The two tubes are made to look like a single unit.
Cardiology Stethoscope Comparison
From the information above, you may think you don’t need to question the sensitivity and quality of the cardiology stethoscope. Nevertheless, you should thorough research cardiology scope you want to buy.
In 2014, a study was undertaken that compared nurses’ and doctors’ abilities to establish five common bowel, cardiac and breath sounds using three different stethoscope models. According to the study, physicians had the most success when using the cardiology steth. The stethoscope can hear even tiny abnormalities and crackles in breath sounds.
Crackles are the foremost warning signs of a heart abnormality. Thus, it is wise to invest in a durable quality stethoscope that will give you accurate results.
A 2016 research reported that medics retrogress in auscultation skills after their 3rd year in medical school. A doctor is only as good as his/her auscultation skills. An inexperienced auscultation doctor will still give wrong diagnosis if they were given a quality stethoscope. Ensure you continuously work on your auscultation skills to take maximum advantage of your stethoscope.
If you are searching for a durable, quality acoustic stethoscope, a cardiology stethoscope is an excellent option. However, keep in mind that brand name, a famous model or a high priced stethoscope is not always the best option for everyone. Read specific cardiology stethoscope reviews to learn more about various options that may be right your specific needs.