Auscultation in flight: comparison of conventional and electronic stethoscopes

Air Med J. May-Jun 2011;30(3):158-60. doi: 10.1016/j.amj.2010.11.009.

Abstract

Objectives: The ability to auscultate during air medical transport is compromised by high ambient-noise levels. The aim of this study was to assess the capabilities of a traditional and an electronic stethoscope (which is expected to amplify sounds and reduce ambient noise) to assess heart and breath sounds during medical transport in a Boeing C135.

Methods: We tested one model of a traditional stethoscope (3MTM Littmann Cardiology IIITM) and one model of an electronic stethoscope (3MTM Littmann Stethoscope Model 3000). We studied heart and lung auscultation during real medical evacuations aboard a medically configured C135. For each device, the quality of auscultation was described using a visual rating scale (ranging from 0 to 100 mm, 0 corresponding to "I hear nothing," 100 to "I hear perfectly"). Comparisons were accomplished using a t-test for paired values.

Results: A total of 36 comparative evaluations were performed. For cardiac auscultation, the value of the visual rating scale was 53 ± 24 and 85 ± 11 mm, respectively, for the traditional and electronic stethoscope (paired t-test: P = .0024). For lung sounds, quality of auscultation was estimated at 27 ± 17 mm for traditional stethoscope and 68 ± 13 for electronic stethoscope (paired t-test: P = .0003). The electronic stethoscope was considered to be better than the standard model for hearing heart and lung sounds.

Conclusion: Flight practitioners involved in air medical evacuation in the C135 aircraft are better able to practice auscultation with this electronic stethoscope than with a traditional one.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Ambulances*
  • Auscultation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Stethoscopes / standards*