Researchers develop electronic stethoscope, analytics to aid lung diagnoses
Japanese researchers have developed a highly sensitive electronic stethoscope to record and then analyze patient breathing sounds for diagnosis into 5 common categories. A team of three physicians from Hiroshima University and Fukushima Medical University developed the system in collaboration with corporate partner Pioneer.
They published their results in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The Respiratory Sounds Visualizer, as the resulting stethoscope-software combo has been named, will be publicly available soon.
"We plan to use the electronic stethoscope and Respiratory Sounds Visualizer with our own patients after further improving [the mathematical calculations]," Dr. Shinichiro Ohshimo, who was one of the researchers to develop the technology, said in a statement. "We will also release the computer program as a downloadable application to the public in the near future." He works in the department of emergency and critical care medicine at Hiroshima University Hospital.
The researchers developed their analytics based on recorded lung sounds of 878 patients that were diagnostically classified by respiratory specialists. The researchers used these as a template to create a mathematical formula that evaluates the length, frequency and intensity of lung sounds.
The computer program analyzes the lung sounds and then maps them on a 5-sided diagnostic chart, with each axis representing one of 5 types of lung sounds. Physicians and patients can review that chart to see which axis length is more covered in red, indicating that diagnosis is more likely.
It can be difficult for physicians to listen to heart and lung sounds in a clinical environment, particularly when there is background noise. The stethoscope-software combo could enable doctors in difficult or noisy environments to make a more accurate diagnosis.
This technology could also be applied at home by chronic disease patients who can track and record their own lung function in order to help manage lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis.
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