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The Stethoscope: Timeless Tool Or Outdated Relic?
Kaiser Health News

To hear a patient’s heart, doctors used to just put an ear up to a patient’s chest and listen. Then, in 1816, things changed.

Lore has it that 35-year-old Paris physician Rene Laennec was caring for a young woman who was apparently plump, with a bad heart and large breasts. Dr. George Davis, an obstetrician at East Tennessee State University who collects vintage stethoscopes, said the young Dr. Laennec didn’t feel comfortable pressing his ear to the woman’s bosom.

“So he took 24 sheets of paper and rolled them into a long tube and put that up against her chest, listened to the other end and found that not only could he hear the heart sounds very, very well, but it was actually better than what he could hear with his ear,” Davis said.

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