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A brief guide to the stethoscope

If there's one piece of equipment that no medical professional can be without, it's the stethoscope. Stethoscopes are so synonymous with the profession they've almost become a status symbol in their own right. But, of course, they have an important role to play in diagnostics and treatment. Given its importance St John Ambulance Supplies has put together a quick guide to the stethoscope, offering a new appreciation for this vital piece of kit.

View our range of stethoscopes

The invention of the stethoscope

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by French doctor Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec in response to the difficulty in assessing cardiac health. Before its invention practitioners listened to the heart by placing their ear directly onto the patient's chest, or by tapping the chest and listening to the sound created. Laennec found these methods couldn't be used effectively on an overweight patient he was examining. It was during this examination he remembered a key rule of acoustics - sound becomes amplified when listened to through certain solid entities. He rolled up a piece of paper before placing one end on the woman's chest and the other against his ear and was able to hear the heart beating more clearly.

Modifications and improvements

Over the next few years Laennec refined his device. It eventually became a wooden tube with an earpiece, similar in design to an ear trumpet, and a lot of his contemporaries continued to modify it. A few years later the first flexible version was developed, and by the 20th century the stethoscope had become an indispensible diagnostic tool. Since then the design has undergone numerous modifications, and in the 1960s the Littmann cardiology stethoscope was unveiled. Lighter and with superior acoustics when compared to previous designs, it's grown to become one of the most highly regarded stethoscopes available.

Stethoscopes in the present day

Almost 200 years since its first invention, there are various styles and models of stethoscope available. A prototype of an electronic stethoscope is in development by NASA, which will deliver accurate heart and body sounds in the noise of a spacecraft. Back down on earth the Littmann stethoscope still meets all the day to day requirements of medical practitioners. It's compact, durable and boasts high acoustic sensitivity for accurate results, and its patented dual frequency range diaphragm sets the standard of detection. One of the latest additions to the stethoscope is the Littmann soft sealing eartips, allowing comfortable wear and ease of use.

St John Ambulance Supplies

The Littmann stethoscope is a core product in our diagnostic range and popular amongst St John Ambulance Supplies customers.
We also supply other first aid and health and safety equipment including defibrillators, first aid kits and pulse oximeters.
Order online or talk to one of our customer service advisers on 0844 770 4808.

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