Acoustic properties of the normal chest

Eur Respir J. 1995 Oct;8(10):1761-9. doi: 10.1183/09031936.95.08101761.


Laënnec invented the stethoscope in 1816 and published a treatise on auscultation in 1819. We then had to wait until the 1950s to observe development of modern devices and methods of recording and signal-processing, which allowed objective studies of lung sounds in time and frequency fields. Tracheobronchial sounds generated by ventilation originate in the upper airways, the frequency content of these sounds has led to extensive research. Consolidated lungs act as more efficient sound conductors to the chest wall (bronchial breathing murmur). Tracheobronchial sounds contain higher frequency components compared to vesicular lung sounds. The origin of vesicular lung sounds has been becoming progressively clear for about 10 yrs. It is at least partly produced locally, deep, and probably intralobular. Clearly, further studies need to be performed in order to elucidate the true mechanisms involved in generating vesicular lung sounds, the redistribution of intrapulmonary gas or vibrations caused by the stretching of lung tissue. The devices developed are already useful for monitoring the state of patients in intensive care. Sooner or later, real time analysis and automated diagnosis will become available.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auscultation* / history
  • Auscultation* / instrumentation
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology
  • Respiratory Sounds*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Thorax / physiology*