Rationale: The standardized use of a stethoscope for chest auscultation in clinical research is limited by its inherent inter-listener variability. Electronic auscultation and automated classification of recorded lung sounds may help prevent some of these shortcomings.
Objective: We sought to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies implementing computerized lung sound analysis (CLSA) to aid in the detection of abnormal lung sounds for specific respiratory disorders.
Methods: We searched for articles on CLSA in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and ISI Web of Knowledge through July 31, 2010. Following qualitative review, we conducted a meta-analysis to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of CLSA for the detection of abnormal lung sounds.
Measurements and main results: Of 208 articles identified, we selected eight studies for review. Most studies employed either electret microphones or piezoelectric sensors for auscultation, and Fourier Transform and Neural Network algorithms for analysis and automated classification of lung sounds. Overall sensitivity for the detection of wheezes or crackles using CLSA was 80% (95% CI 72-86%) and specificity was 85% (95% CI 78-91%).
Conclusions: While quality data on CLSA are relatively limited, analysis of existing information suggests that CLSA can provide a relatively high specificity for detecting abnormal lung sounds such as crackles and wheezes. Further research and product development could promote the value of CLSA in research studies or its diagnostic utility in clinical settings.
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