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Auscultation prior to the stethoscope.

Auscultation is the act of listening for sounds within the body.[1]. In some cases, it may take no more than the examiner's ear near the patient, to recognize loud abnormalities of breathing, such as wheezing, and various forms of cough. The stethoscope, invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec,[2] is still a basic tool, but even basic manual stethoscopes have undergone mechanical changes such as continual improvement in the part that touches the patient, and the part that carries the sound to the examiner.

An early area of improvement was obstetrics, in combination with palpation and clinical observation. [3]

The results of sounds heard on auscultation may suggest a need for additional information with more technical devices. In some cases, that may simply be a stethoscope with electronic amplification, or the combination of electronically amplified sounds with ultrasonography. Auscultation that gives sounds suggestive of fluid inside body cavity often calls for medical imaging using X-rays or ultrasonography. Sometimes, the most valuable information combines multiple sensors, such as auscultation or ultrasonography of the heart, synchronized with electrocardiographic information on heart electrical activity.

Examiners with more experience are more accurate in cardiac auscultation.[4][5]

Auscultation through fabric

The accuracy of auscultation through fabric is not known.[6]


  1. Anonymous (2021), Auscultation (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Bloch, Harry (August, 1993), "The inventor of the stethoscope: Rene Laennec", Journal of Family Practice
  3. Dunn, P M (2006), "Adolphe Pinard (1844–1934) of Paris and intrauterine paediatric care", Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition (no. 91): F231-F232, DOI:10.1136/adc.2005.074518
  4. Gupta S, Michaels AD (2009). "Relationship between accurate auscultation of the fourth heart sound and the level of physician experience.". Clin Cardiol 32 (2): 69-75. DOI:10.1002/clc.20431. PMID 19215005. Research Blogging.
  5. Marcus GM, Marcus G, Vessey J, Jordan MV, Huddleston M, McKeown B et al. (2006). "Relationship between accurate auscultation of a clinically useful third heart sound and level of experience.". Arch Intern Med 166 (6): 617-22. DOI:10.1001/archinte.166.6.617. PMID 16567599. Research Blogging.
  6. Kraman SS (2008). "Transmission of lung sounds through light clothing.". Respiration 75 (1): 85-8. DOI:10.1159/000098404. PMID 17202806. Research Blogging.