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Ultrasound Stethoscope

January 1, 2007

A new stethoscope works in very noisy places and could help medics on the battlefield.


A battlefield stethoscope. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[sound of a heartbeat]

There’s no instrument more important to a doctor than a stethoscope. That’s why scientists at the Army Aeromedical Research Lab have designed a new kind that works in noisy conditions, like on a battlefield, in a helicopter, or in a stadium. Acoustical engineer Adrian Houtsma says instead of listening passively to the heartbeat, it sends high-frequency sound waves into the tissue, listens as they bounce back, and then transforms them into sound the doctor can hear.

ADRIAN HOUTSMA (US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory):
It looks and sounds very similar to a regular conventional stethoscope, but internally it is something totally different. And if you listen carefully it sounds a little different.

[sound of a heartbeat through the ultrasound stethoscope]

In fact, he says it may hear lifesaving details that conventional stethoscopes can’t. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.