Sunday, August 18, 2013

Listening Closely: The Story of the Stethoscope

Whether you're a real doctor or pretending to be one, a stethoscope is standard paraphernalia to the person of a doctor. Along with a white lab coat, a pin on its chest pocket, and perhaps a cup of hot coffee to keep his eyes wide open, if you're without one, you could be just the technician.

Stethoscopes have been very useful in identifying abnormal rhythms or pulses in the body in an instant. They are also very inexpensive. It enables doctors to find out what's going on inside without having to use X-rays, or other scanners.

The practice of listening to the chest cavity goes far back to Ancient Egypt and Greece. Physicians back then would place their ear directly to the chest of the patient and listen for the varying sounds of the heartbeat.

It wasn't until 1816 that the Mono-aural stethoscope was invented by French physician Rene Laennec. Back then the stethoscope looked like a single telescope as it was cylindrical and could only be used with one ear.

By the 1850's, physicians were looking for a different design that would allow them to use both ears for listening. However, the first Binaural stethoscope design had already been designed in 1829 by Nicholas Comins, just a little more than ten years after Laennec's design.

Eventually, physicians would be making their own versions of the instrument made with different materials and shapes that would evolve into today's handy and effective design.

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