The Stethoscope May Soon be Obsolete With the Advent of Ultrasound Technology

  • Doug Horn , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • Jan, 26, 2014, 02:19 PM
(Photo : Reuters/Ina Fassbender) Stethoscopes may be phased out with the advent of ultrasound technology.

The stethoscope, an iconic symbol of doctors for nearly 200 years, could soon be replaced by hand-held ultrasound devices, according to Tech Times.

Business Standard reported that "the world of medicine could be experiencing its final days of the stethoscope due to the rapid advent of point-of-care ultrasound devices that are becoming increasingly accurate, smaller to the point of being hand-held and less expensive as the years pass."

Jagat Narula and Bret Nelson from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, wrote an editorial in the journal Global Heart stating that pocket-sized ultrasound devices can diagnose problems in the body more accurately than stethoscopes, which have been in use since 1816.

"Many experts have argued that ultrasound has become the stethoscope of the 21st century," the editorial reads. "At the time of writing, several manufacturers offer hand-held ultrasound machines slightly larger than a deck of cards, with technology and screens modelled after modern smartphones."

Compared with expensive, bulky, ultrasound machines of the past, the authors say that "hand-held ultrasound devices introduced an alternative concept of relatively inexpensive, easy-to-use machines which could generate images interpretable by a wider spectrum of clinicians at the point of care."

More than 20 medical specialties include use of point-of-care ultrasound as a core skill, suggesting that compared to the stethoscope, ultrasound technology can reduce complications, assist in emergency procedures and improve diagnostic accuracy.

The one thing stopping the ultrasound from becoming as prevalent as the stethoscope is the price. The hand-held ultrasound device is priced between $8,000 and $10,000, far more expensive than the stethoscope.

The authors of the editorial stated that the growth of the smartphone-style device will continue.

"Certainly the stage is set for disruption; as LPs were replaced by cassettes, then CDs and .mp3s, so too might the stethoscope yield to ultrasound," the authors stated. "Medical students will train with portable devices during their preclinical years, and witness living anatomy and physiology previously only available through simulation."

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