200 years on the beat: Why the doctor's stethoscope is on its way out
Modern ultrasound devices look set to end the use of the stethoscope.
17:05 24 January 2014
Increasingly portable and accurate ultrasound devices are being adopted by healthcare professionals in a move which will most likely spell the end of the stethoscope.
The smartphone sized scanners can improve diagnostic accuracy and scan for trauma in hearts and lungs.
An editorial in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, said:
"Several manufacturers offer hand-held ultrasound machines slightly larger than a deck of cards, with technology and screens modelled after modern smartphones.
"Many experts have argued that ultrasound has become the stethoscope of the 21st century."
The iconic stethoscope has been seen on doctors’ necks since 1816, amassing nearly 200 years of service.
Cost is a factor in embracing this new technology. Stethoscopes are mass produced at a very low cost and are readily available, whereas portable ultrasound devices are much costlier proposition for trusts to take on.
Dr Syed Masud, a consultant in pre-hospital care was quoted by Sky News as saying: "We have to kind of bring the hospital to the patient at the roadside or at their home and the ultrasound has fitted in there, because it is a diagnostic window.
"In the past we used to use the stethoscope. Well, actually, if you think about it, a stethoscope on the roadside with the noise level and everything else it is probably not that useful.
"In cardiac arrest, putting the finger on someone's neck and trying to feel for a pulse is less useful than actually using an ultrasound.
"The ultrasound can tell us whether the lungs are up; it can tell us what the heart is doing; whether it is beating; whether there are any particular injuries.
"We can look inside the abdomen rather than just feeling the abdomen to see whether there is fluid inside which could be potential bleeding."