New ultrasound could mean end of stethoscope
The days of the doctor’s stethoscope could be coming to an end thanks to modern unltrasound devices.
The latest point-of-care devices are becoming increasingly more accurate and portable. They scan for trauma, can reduce complications, assist in emergency procedures and improve diagnostic accuracy. It is all a far cry from the limitations of the trusty old stethoscope, which has been hanging around the necks of doctors since 1816.
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 journal asks why we do not see ultrasound machines in the pockets of every clinician. Several factors are said to play a play a role, including cost. more accuracy than the 200-year-old stethoscope, therefore potentially saving time and money.
A number of air ambulance services in the UK use ultrasound, including the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust. Dr Syed Masud, a consultant in pre-hospital care, said: “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.”
The demise of the stethoscope is likely to be a very gradual process, especially among older GPs who are being appraised and reassured about ultrasound technology and its versatility. They will also be weighing up the potential of increased power and speed of diagnosis against increased cost.