Rappaport and Sprague designed a new stethoscope in the 1940s which became the standard by which other stethoscopes are measured. The Rappaport-Sprague was later made by Hewlett-Packard. HP's medical products division was spun off as Agilent Technologies, Inc. Agilent was purchased by Philips which became Philips Medical Systems, before the walnut-boxed, $300, original Rappaport-Sprague stethoscope was finally abandoned ca. 2004, along with Philips' brand (manufactured by Andromed, of Montreal, Canada) electronic stethoscope model. Today there are still cardiologists who consider the original Rappaport-Sprague to be the finest acoustic stethoscope. Rappaport-Sprague copies made in China currently retail for about US$20.00. The Rappaport-Sprague model stethoscope was heavy and short (18"-24") with an antiquated appearance recognizable by their two large independent latex rubber tubes connecting an exposed-leaf-spring-joined-pair of opposing "f"-shaped chrome-plated brass binaural ear tubes with a dual-head chest piece. The stethoscope tubes are held together somewhat by two clips.
Several other minor refinements were made to stethoscopes, until in the early 1960s Dr. David Littmann, a Harvard Medical School professor, created a new stethoscope that was lighter than previous models and had improved acoustics. In the late 1970s 3M-Littmann introduced the tunable diaphragm: a very hard (G-10) glass-epoxy resin diaphragm member with an overmolded silicone flexible acoustic surround which permitted increased excursion of the diaphragm member in a "z"-axis with respect to the plane of the sound collecting area. The left shift to a lower resident frequency increases the volume of some low frequency sounds due to the longer waves propagated by the increased excursion of the hard diaphragm member suspended in the concentric acountic surround. Conversely, restricting excursion of the diaphragm by pressing the stethoscope diaphragm surface firmly against the anatomical area overlying the physiological sounds of interest, the acoustic surround could also be used to dampen excursion of the diaphragm in response to "z"-axis pressure against a concentric fret. This raises the frequency bias by shortening the wavelength to auscultate a higher range of physiological sounds. 3-M Littmann is also credited with a collapsible mold frame for sludge molding a single column bifurcating stethoscope tube with an internal septum dividing the single column stethoscope tube into discrete left and right binaural channels (AKA "cardiology tubing"; including a covered, or internal leaf spring-binaural ear tube connector).
In 1999 Richard Deslauriers patented the first external noise reducing stethoscope, the DRG Puretone. It featured two parallel lumens containing two steel coils which dissipated infiltrating noise as inaudible heat energy. The steel coil "insulation" added .30lb to each stethoscope. In 2005, DRG's diagnostics division was acquired by TRIMLINE Medical Products. Between 1998-2007 Marc Werblud, a disabled paramedic/medical student created a lightweight 32" long acoustic noise cancelling stethoscope which improved sound quality, and reduced neck strain. The acoustic properties of the specific materials used to make stethoscope components were first tested to determine their 'resident frequency'. The results of individual acoustical component materials tests revealed how their collective interactions determine the instrument's dominant tonal character and frequency response of the stethoscope, yielding several high fidelity and acoustic noise cancelling stethoscope models. The continuous stratified lumen system, kinetic acoustic mechanism, and voluble acoustic reflector of Magna Fortis' Metacardia model improved sensitivity, volume, and insulation for use in loud environments by emergency medical practitioners and clinicians, who benefited from the ability to examine patients at full arm's length. Some models weighed as little as 133 grams (4.7 oz) - half the weight of common cardiology stethoscopes from the 1960s and 1970s. The new models also included a unique set of stethoscope diaphragms which increased frequency response, and could be sanitarily changed for each patient.
Until his death in 2007, Georgetown University Professor W. Proctor Harvey (b. 1917) was the name most synonymous with the stethoscope and considered the nation's most skilled practitioner of auscultation, the ability to detect cardiac ailments by listening to the sounds of the heart. Dr. Harvey's incredible gift was being able to make sound clinical diagnoses from basic clinical examinations and the bedside using only an acoustic stethoscope. Dr. Harvey elevated the discipline of cardiovascular diagnosis to an art form. He taught differential auscultation using classical music to train a generation of clinicians to diagnose the heart by first learning to hear the individual instrument voices within a symphony. Harvey invented acoustic stethoscopes under the Tycos brand name notably, the Harvey Triple-head; and the "stethophone," the first electronic amplification auscultation device.
Stethoscopes are often considered as a symbol of the doctor's profession, as doctors are often seen or depicted with a stethoscope hanging around their neck.
Nurses, technicians, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and other associated personnel may in some countries be trained to use stethoscopes to obtain basic vital signs and to listen to heart and lung sounds. A doctor will typically be notified for further assessment if something unusual is heard.
Acoustic stethoscopes are familiar to most people, and operate on the transmission of sound from the chest piece, via air-filled hollow tubes, to the listener's ears. The chestpiece usually consists of two sides that can be placed against the patient for sensing sound — a diaphragm (plastic disc) or bell (hollow cup). If the diaphragm is placed on the patient, body sounds vibrate the diaphragm, creating acoustic pressure waves which travel up the tubing to the listener's ears. If the bell is placed on the patient, the vibrations of the skin directly produce acoustic pressure waves traveling up to the listener's ears. The bell transmits low frequency sounds, while the diaphragm transmits higher frequency sounds. This 2-sided stethoscope was invented by Rappaport and Sprague in the early part of the 20th century. One problem with acoustic stethoscopes was that the sound level is extremely low. This problem was surmounted in 1999 with the invention of the stratified continuous (inner) lumen, and the kinetic acoustic mechanism in 2002. Acoustic stethoscopes are the most commonly used.
An electronic stethoscope (or stethophone) overcomes the low sound levels by electronically amplifying body sounds. However, amplification of stethoscope contact artifacts, and component cutoffs (frequency response thresholds of electronic stethoscope microphones, pre-amps, amps, and speakers) limit electronically amplified stethoscopes' overall utility by amplifying mid-range sounds, while simultaneously attenuating high- and low- frequency range sounds. Currently, a number of companies offer electronic stethoscopes, and it can be expected that within a few years, the electronic stethoscope will have eclipsed acoustic devices.
Electronic stethoscopes require conversion of acoustic sound waves to electrical signals which can then be amplified and processed for optimal listening. Unlike acoustic stethoscopes, which are all based on the same physics, transducers in electronic stethoscopes vary widely. The simplest and least effective method of sound detection is achieved by placing a microphone in the chestpiece. This method suffers from ambient noise interference and has fallen out of favor. Another method, used in Welch-Allyn's Meditron stethoscope, comprises placement of a piezoelectric crystal at the head of a metal shaft, the bottom of the shaft making contact with a diaphragm. 3M also uses a piezo-electric crystal placed within foam behind a thick rubber-like diaphragm. Thinklabs' Rhythm 32 inventor, Clive Smith uses a stethoscope diaphragm with an electrically conductive inner surface to form a capacitive sensor. This diaphragm responds to sound waves identically to a conventional acoustic stethoscope, with changes in an electric field replacing changes in air pressure. This preserves the sound of an acoustic stethoscope with the benefits of amplification.
Because the sounds are transmitted electronically, an electronic stethoscope can be a wireless device, can be a recording device, and can provide noise reduction, signal enhancement, and both visual and audio output. Around 2001, Stethographics introduced PC-based software which enabled a phonocardiograph, graphic representation of cardiologic and pulmonologic sounds to be generated, and interpreted according to related algorithms. All of these features are helpful for purposes of teaching.
More recently, ambient noise filtering has become available in some electronic stethoscopes, with 3M's Littmann 3000 and Thinklabs ds32a offering methods for eliminating ambient noise. In acoustic stethoscopes ambient noise filtering is available in TRIMLINE Puretone (DRG, R. Deslauriers) external noise reducing models, and Magna Fortis (M. Werblud) acoustic noise cancelling stethoscope models.
US Patent Issued to LG Electronics on March 1 for "Sump Assembly and Dish Washer Using the Same" (South Korean Inventors)
Mar 02, 2011; ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 2 -- United States Patent no. 7,896,975, issued on March 1, was assigned to LG Electronics Inc. (Seoul,...