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A Stethoscope App for the iPhone: Is It Better The Old Fashioned Way?

It’s out there. It makes a cool picture, but I wonder how many medical students realize how unimportant apps like this have become to today’s cardiovascular care. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to hear the difference between a systolic and diastolic murmur, or for the really talented, a diastolic rumble on physical exam. Recognizing the difference between mild and severe aortic stenosis is also very helpful. After all, the physical exam remains the most cost-effective instrument in medicine.

But graphics to show the murmur that requires an electronic stethoscope and preamplifier to connect them to your iPhone? How much money do you want to waste on these toys?

The best way I know how to learn is get off the computer and get to the bedside. Look, listen, and feel the precordium a thousand times over. Only by doing will you learn. You really don’t need an expensive stethoscope (but it does help the auditorially challenged). I admit that I’ve stopped using super-expensive stethoscopes because I always lose them when I change into scrubs or round on too many different wards (or they’re often stolen).

Honestly, by the time I’m asked to see a patient, the echocardiogram is already done, so for me, listening to the lung sounds and measuring blood pressures (especially orthostatics for patients with syncope) remains the most important reason I still carry (or borrow) an the old, cheesy, analog version of the stethoscope.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*


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