Study, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Kochi: The humble stethoscope could avoid the unnecessary use of more expensive investigations like echocardiography for the diagnosis of heart defects and enable substantial reductions in healthcare costs, according to a research study conducted at Amrita Hospital here.

Published in the British Medical Journal – Paediatrics Open, the study was conducted on 545 children with suspected congenital heart defects and systematically tested the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination of the cardiovascular system, comparing it to echocardiography, current gold standard for diagnosing heart disease. .

The study was able to differentiate normal hearts from abnormal hearts with an accuracy of 95% and better.

R. Krishna Kumar, Clinical Professor and Head of Pediatric Cardiology at Amrita Hospital, who led the study, said that with the increasing availability of ultrasound technology in cardiology in the form of echocardiography, there is a perception that the physical examination of the patient with age -the old stethoscope becomes superfluous.

“In the West, the skill in using stethoscopes has declined to the point that many doctors have stopped using them 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.

Krishna Kumar pointed out that history taking and physical examination are traditional tools that greatly help in getting an accurate diagnosis and strengthen the doctor’s relationship with the patient.

“However, the importance of physical examination in patients with heart disease seems to be diminishing lately with the advent of echocardiography. Our study found that the humble stethoscope can serve as a useful method to screen patients in outpatient clinics. Physical examination involving a stethoscope is also very effective in correctly identifying common congenital heart conditions in children,” he said.

Citing the results, Krishna Kumar said: “It shows that when applied correctly, the stethoscope could avoid the unnecessary use of more costly investigations like echocardiography and provide substantial reductions in healthcare costs and reduce the burden This finding is of great importance for health care in low-resource countries like India.