The area of application of electronic stethoscopes in medical diagnostics covers the scope of usability of the acoustic stethoscopes, from which they have evolved and which they could potentially replace. However, the principle of operation of these two groups of diagnostic devices is substantially different. Thus, an important question arises, regarding the differences in parameters of the transmitted sound and their potential diagnostic consequences in clinical practice.Methods
In order to answer this question, heart auscultation signals are recorded using various stethoscopes and divided into short fragments based on the analysis of the synchronized recordings of electrocardiogram signals. Next, a dedicated algorithm is used to extract representative datasets for each case, which are then analyzed for their acoustic parameters. Four different electronic stethoscopes were investigated, together with an acoustic stethoscope as a reference point.Results
The determined acoustic characteristics of the considered stethoscopes differ significantly between each other.Conclusions
The differences in sound transmitted by various stethoscope models may translate into significant differences in quality of the obtained diagnosis. It is also pointed out, that the terminology and application guidelines regarding the electronic stethoscopes are misleading and should be changed.