This week’s word is auscultation.
[aw-skuh l-tey-shuh n], noun. To listen, either directly or by use of an instrument such as a stethoscope, to areas of the body to aid in diagnosis.
We’re all pretty familiar with the doc using his or her stethoscope to listen to our lungs and heart. We vets do the same thing with animals. I remember in veterinary school, listening to audio files of heart sounds, trying to discern the difference between clicks and murmurs and snaps.
In some animals, we not only listen to sounds in the chest cavity, but also in the abdomen. Particularly with ruminant animals (such as cows, sheep, goats, and deer), hearing regular contractions in the rumen (the fermentation vat of the four-chambered stomach) is an important indicator of GI health. Hearing a “ping” sound on the left side can tell us that the abomasum, another chamber of the stomach, is “twisted” and the cow may require surgery to correct the displacement. Click here to listen to the “ping” of a left displaced abomasum.
Did you know that the stethoscope was invented in 1816 by a French physician named Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec? He first used a rolled up piece of paper to listen to a patient’s chest and discovered he could hear heart sounds much more clearly than placing his ear to the chest, which was the common practice. The first stethoscope was wooden and monaural (using only one ear). In 1851, Irish physician Arthur Leared invented the bi-aural stethoscope. Today, there are electronic versions that amplify the sound and reduce extraneous noise.