Auscultation is the technical term for listening to the internal sounds of the body, usually using a stethoscope. It is mostly done to examine the circulatory system, the respiratory system and the gastrointestinal system (bowel sounds). While it is a skill that requires substantial clinical experience and good listening skills, a finer stethoscope could improve analysis results.
3M’s product has more to offer besides clearing clinicians’ workspace. It has noise canceling and sound augmenting technology, with the ability to amplify sounds up to 24 times more than regular stethoscopes. It also features recording capability (of heart and lung sounds) for future analysis. After the recorded sounds are transferred to PC, the provided “Zargis StethAssist” software can help with the diagnosis of the patient’s problem.
According to the manufacturer, the Littmann Electronic Stethoscope was designed for maximal ease of use. Its “instant-on” feature makes it a handy accessory, thanks to the single-click activation with zero delay time. In order to save battery, the stethoscope automatically enters sleep mode after a period of inactivity (users can also hold down the power button to completely turn it off).
The LCD display further simplifies the stethoscope’s operation; now clinicians can read the exact heart rate of the patient from the small display. The LCD also depicts remaining battery life, and starts blinking when approximately two days of use remain. However, 3M has made sure that low-battery will not affect sound quality. Either way, the battery should last for approximately 60 hours of continuous active use.
Although traditional doctors might be disheartened by the thought of an electronic device replacing experience and knowledge, they might find the Littmann Electronic Stethoscope 3100 suitable for teaching purposes; using the provided software and pre-recorded sounds, teachers could demonstrate various heartbeats. This, of course, is true under the assumption that they will be willing to pay $379 for a sophisticated teaching-aid.
TFOT has also covered the Vena Platform, a single-chip communications solution for health devices that provides wireless connectivity, and the Intel Health Guide, a tablet-PC that offers management tools for health care professionals. Other related TFOT stories include the Vital Jacket, a wearable vital-signs monitoring system, and a new kind of Biosensors, researched at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in order to bring them into use in the health-care industry.
For more information about the Littmann Electronic Stethoscope, Model 3100, see its website.