Debate – Are Stethoscopes Relevant Anymore?

As soon as one thinks of a doctor, the first image that pops is that of a stethoscope. The 200-year-old medical tool is a highly cost effective and versatile means to check for initial signs of illness in a patient. Circa 1816, doctors would need to put their ear to the patient’s chest and listen carefully to understand what was happening “inside”. Even to this day, stethoscopes are considered indispensable to a doctor’s ensemble – they’re often placed along with white coats in being a doctor’s identity card. However, there are also questions raised about the relevance and usefulness of this age-old tool in today’s medically advanced era.

The past few decades have seen the medical landscape evolve tremendously. Groundbreaking discoveries are taking the medical industry by storm every single day, paving way for rapid growth and further advancements. Nevertheless, doctors are often found sentimentally and habitually attached to stethoscopes. The stethoscope is undoubtedly one of the most important diagnostic tools ever invented. It was developed to help doctors in the process of auscultation or in laymen terms, to look for first signs of concern such as wheezing, palpitations and gurgling. Over time, new technologies such as x-ray, ultrasound and MRI have emerged, but the stethoscope is still among the most cost-effective and versatile points of diagnostic entry. Additionally, no one is to say that the stethoscope itself hasn’t evolved over time. Today, the device has been refined to a great degree and is also easily available alongside other medical equipment online.

Medical experts also feel that using the stethoscope is among the only ways to retain a close connection between the doctor and their patient. The laying of hands required in examining with a stethoscope helps build an invaluable connection between the doctor and patient. This aspect of a physical exam is extremely vital, making the stethoscope a lot more important than a simple tool to listen to heart sounds. There are numerous occasions when a stethoscope outweighs the cons of other methods:

  • Diagnosing heart issues – Before undergoing any important medical procedure, it is imperative for the doctor to go through your entire medical history and check for underlying heart conditions. The most definitive way to do this is with an echocardiogram test but that may be time consuming. On the other hand, with a stethoscope the doctor can quickly catch cardiac conditions, especially when the patient needs emergent surgery. An echocardiogram may take up to a few hours to show results while a stethoscope can do the job within seconds. This is extremely important when the situation is urgent, and time is critical.

  • Declaring a patient dead – A stethoscope is often used as the final means of determining if a patient has died. Especially in cases where the patient experiences a slow, steady decline, the stethoscope can help declare if the patient has lost their life. Helping assess pregnant women suffering from shortness of breath: Pregnant women often feel uncomfortable getting chest C-rays CT scans. Using a stethoscope helps determine the cause behind many conditions such as aggravation of asthma or pneumonia that may be causing breathing difficulties. A stethoscope is highly useful here as breathing sounds differ with varying conditions.

  • Assessing post-op recovery – Many surgeries require the patient to be put under general anaesthesia. This often tends to slow down bowel movement of the patient. Many doctors prefer to use a stethoscope to listen to the belly and get an update on the patient’s recovery status.

  • Monitoring heart rate – Checking one’s heart rate by placing two fingers on the wrist could be misleading. Using a stethoscope allows the doctor to accurately measure every pulse and thus monitor the heart rate.

  • Monitoring blood pressure – There are numerous electronic medical devices available that allow one to automatically monitor blood pressure levels. However, these devices may crash or require troubleshooting. On the other hand, a stethoscope is a simple device that is unlikely to fail you.

There is no doubt that there are numerous other ways today to ‘look inside’ the patient’s body but this in no way discounts the importance of using a stethoscope.  Not only is it highly cost effective but also the practical introductory step in most diagnostic exams. No wonder that it is the first tool that all training doctors are presented with.  If you’re looking for the best stethoscope for medical students in India, rely on online retailers such as Smart Medical Buyer that are not only trust-worthy but also highly convenient to shop from. No matter how advanced medical equipment gets, it is highly unlikely that the stethoscope will be left behind. Instead, it will continue to be refined and move forward alongside other developments in the medical field.



There is no doubt that there are numerous other ways today to ‘look inside’ the patient’s body but this in no way discounts the importance of using a stethoscope.  Not only is it highly cost effective but also the practical introductory step in most diagnostic exams.