Humble stethoscope can diagnose heart defects in children with 95% accuracy, finds study
The research, conducted at Amrita Hospital, Kochi, found that stethoscope could avoid unnecessary use of the more expensive investigations like echocardiography and allow for substantial reductions in healthcare costs
KOCHI / September 28, 2022: Listening to heart sounds with the traditional stethoscope can distinguish with a high degree of accuracy hearts that are normal from those with defects, a study conducted by Amrita Hospital, Kochi, has found. The original research, published in British Medical Journal, Pediatrics Open, involved 545 children with suspected congenital heart defects. The study for the first time systematically tested the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination of cardiovascular system in children and compared it with echocardiography, the current gold standard to diagnose heart conditions. said Dr. R. Krishna Kumar, Clinical Professor and Head, Pediatric Cardiology,
Amrita Hospital, Kochi, who led the study: “With increasing availability of ultrasound technology in cardiology in the form of echocardiography, there is a perception that physical examination of the patient with the age-old stethoscope is becoming redundant. In the West, skills in using stethoscope have declined to the point where many doctors have stopped using it altogether. However, in India many doctors still use the stethoscope to good effect and arrive at an accurate diagnosis. They recommend echocardiography only when a significant heart condition is identified. The purpose of this study was to validate the accuracy of examining the patient and listening with the stethoscope using a structured protocol and comparing the results with echocardiography.”
He added: “History and physical examination are traditional tools that contribute substantially to arriving at an accurate diagnosis and strengthens the doctor’s rapport with the patient. However, the importance of physical examination in patients with heart disease appears to be diminishing in recent times with the arrival of echocardiography. Our study found that the humble stethoscope can serve as a useful method to screen patients in outpatient clinics. Physical examination involving stethoscope is also quite good in correctly identifying common congenital heart diseases in children. In our study, it could differentiate normal hearts from abnormal ones with an accuracy of 95% and above. This shows that when applied correctly, stethoscope could avoid unnecessary use of the more expensive investigations like echocardiography and allow for substantial reductions in healthcare costs and reduce the burden on the healthcare system. This finding is of great significance for healthcare in low-resource settings like India.”
“The study underscores the utility of clinical examination in initial screening for commonly encountered congenital cardiac conditions in children even in the current era of echocardiography. It has demonstrated that stethoscope is fairly reliable in out-patient settings where the patients are relatively stable. However, the results of the study are truly valid for these settings only. They may not apply to in-patient settings, newborns with suspected heart disease, and situations where the doctors are not trained adequately in examining the heart and in using the stethoscope,” the doctor said.
AMRITA HOSPITAL, KOCHI (www.amritahospitals.org)
Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (Amrita Hospital), based in Kochi, is one of the premier hospitals in South Asia. Founded in 1998 by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known worldwide as Amma), it offers a full range of primary and speciality-care medical services. Amma’s vision of providing advanced medical care to the poor and disadvantaged was the inspiration for Amrita Hospital, which today is a 1,300-bed (490 units) tertiary referral and teaching hospital, serving more than 8 lakh outpatients and more than 50,000 inpatients annually.
The massive healthcare infrastructure with over 3.33 million sq.ft. of built-up area, spread over 125 acres of land, supports a daily patient volume of approximately 3,500 outpatients with 95 percent inpatient occupancy. There are 12 super-speciality departments, 45 other departments, 4,500 support staff and 670 faculty members. The hospital’s extensive infrastructure offers facilities comprising 28 modern operating theatres, 275 equipped intensive-care beds, a fully computerised and networked Hospital Information System (HIS), a fully digital radiology department, 17 NABL accredited clinical laboratories and 24/7 telemedicine service
.In 2015, South Asia's first-ever Bilateral Hand Transplant Surgery was done at Amrita Hospital. The same year, Amrita Hospital won the British Medical Journal Award for the Best Surgical Team in South Asia. The Amrita team won the award for its two successful double hand transplants, the first and the second bilateral hand transplants in this region. Attachments area