Sunday, October 17, 2010

Out with the old?

Today’s ‘Positive and Optimistic Sunday’. The stethoscope (Greek: stéthos = chest; skopé = examination) is a medical device for listening to the body’s internal sounds [1]. René Laennec [2] invented it in 1816 – as a monaural wooden tube. The binaural stethoscope dates from 1851. The stethoscope’s become the visible symbol of medical professionals. Doctors especially, are often seen or depicted with them hanging around their necks. But all that may be changing due to iStethoscope – a A$1.19 iPhone application [3, 4] invented by London computer scientist Peter Bentley [5]. With the iPhone’s microphone’s placed on the patient’s skin over the heart, the app counts the number of heart beats per minute, records audio of the heartbeats and any murmurs, and generates a spectrogram image [6]. The audio and the spectrogram can be saved and emailed. For best results Bentley advises users to buy better quality headphones than the Apple white ones, use the iPhone sans protective case, and place its microphone on the skin. Even so, effective iStethoscope use takes practice. But Bentley’s produced some helpful video clips [7]. So far, there’ve been over 3 million iStethoscope downloads. Will it end use of the conventional stethoscope? I doubt it – for the stethoscope has non-heart uses, e.g. listening to sounds of artery, lung and bowel; and as part of blood pressure measurement. Maybe in future there’ll be iPhone apps for these uses too. If so, the symbol of a doctor may be an iPhone slung around the neck. Perish the thought.


Chrows25 aka Leather Woman said...

The speed of change is astonishing, it acclerates on its own accleration.....OK I understand what I am trying to say??

Kate said...

We loved this post.