An observation piece published in Annals of Internal Medicine describes a new technology designed to help health care professionals better understand what they hear during chest auscultation.
The authors developed a computer-assisted stethoscope that utilizes an algorithm to physically and mathematically divide sounds into one of five categories specified by the International Lung Sounds Association (normal, rhonchi, wheezes, fine crackles, course crackles). It can be difficult for clinicians to differentiate these respiratory sounds because their frequencies overlap. In a test, the computer-assisted stethoscope successfully analyzed the sounds and displayed the information in real time.
When different respiratory sounds were present at the same time, the algorithm classified the sounds. In addition to helping clinicians better understand what they hear, the authors suggest that the technology could be used in medical education and in settings were invasive procedures are performed.