Kochi: A recent study has highlighted the effectiveness of the traditional stethoscope in diagnosing heart defects in children at a time when there is a growing perception that advanced technology in the field of cardiology has left the examination physical with the redundant secular medical device.
The study conducted by Amrita Hospital in Kochi found that listening to heart sounds with the traditional stethoscope can distinguish normal hearts from those with defects with high accuracy, according to a press release from the hospital.
The original research, published in the British Medical Journal, Pediatrics Open, involved 545 children with suspected congenital heart defects. The study for the first time systematically tested the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination of the cardiovascular system in children and compared it to echocardiography, the current gold standard for diagnosing heart disease.
Research has found that proper use of the stethoscope could avoid unnecessary use of more expensive tests like echocardiography and lead to substantial reductions in healthcare costs.
Dr R Krishna Kumar, Clinical Professor and Head of Pediatric Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, who led the study, said: “With the increasing availability of ultrasound technology in cardiology in the form of echocardiography, it there is a perception that the physical examination of the patient with the age-old stethoscope becomes superfluous. In the West, skill in using the stethoscope declined to the point that many physicians stopped using it altogether. However, in India, many doctors still use the stethoscope wisely and arrive at an accurate diagnosis. They recommend echocardiography only when significant heart disease is identified. The purpose of this study was to validate the accuracy of patient examination and listening with the stethoscope using a structured protocol and comparing the results with echocardiography.
He said the history and physical examination are traditional tools that go a long way towards getting an accurate diagnosis and strengthening the doctor’s rapport with the patient. “However, the importance of physical examination in cardiac patients seems to be diminishing lately with the advent of echocardiography. Our study revealed that the humble stethoscope can serve as a useful method for screening patients in clinics. physical examination with a stethoscope can also correctly identify common congenital heart diseases in children.In our study, it was able to differentiate normal hearts from abnormal hearts with an accuracy of 95% and above. applied correctly, the stethoscope could avoid the unnecessary use of more expensive examinations like echocardiography and enable substantial reductions in healthcare costs and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.This finding is of great significance for health care in low-resource countries like India.
According to him, the study underlines the usefulness of physical examination in the initial detection of congenital heart conditions commonly encountered in children, even in the current era of echocardiography. “It demonstrated that the stethoscope is quite reliable in ambulatory settings where patients are relatively stable. However, the results of the study are only really valid for these parameters. They may not apply to hospitalized patients, neonates with suspected heart disease, and situations where physicians are not adequately trained in examining the heart and using the stethoscope,” said said the doctor.