MANUSCRIPT: Ultrasound and stethoscope as tools in medical education and practice: considerations for the archives
In recent years, the use and portability of ultrasound has threatened the utility of the stethoscope, with many debating and even advocating its replacement. The authors set out to assess opinions in this regard among faculty within a medical school and specifically within an anatomy department where ultrasound is incorporated into the curriculum from the first term.
A debate was elicited during a biweekly Anatomy Journal Club session and was centered on three published papers presented. Several questions were raised regarding the possible replacement of stethoscope – the value of early exposure to students as well as how ultrasound and stethoscope should be considered by physicians, students, and teachers.
The general consensus was that the stethoscope should not be replaced but should be used in conjunction with emerging portable ultrasound. Caution was given that technology could “overcomplicate” diagnosis and lead to increased tests resulting in increased cost of care. In terms of exposing students to ultrasound, just as the stethoscope requires practice to use effectively, so does the ultrasound and should be introduced as early on as possible. As is the case with the stethoscope, students may not initially appreciate all the finer details on ultrasound; however, continual use would improve skill.
The stethoscope should always remain part of the physical examination and ultrasound should be used in addition to, not replacement of. As technology advances the need for apprenticeship, training increases and students of the medical profession should be exposed to these technologies as early as possible. Hence, it is not yet time to archive the stethoscope. Perhaps never.