How to Properly Use a Stethoscope – A Brief Guideline

How to Properly Use a Stethoscope – A Brief Guideline

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A stethoscope is so common nowadays that it’s automatically considered as one of many symbols for medicine. Most people associate the stethoscope with just measuring the heart rate and listening to breathing sounds. However, you’ll be surprised to that it has many complex uses.

This article will provide you with a brief overview of how to use a stethoscope for two uncommon applications: abdominal auscultation and checking for bruits. 

Prepping a Stethoscope

Stethoscopes, like any other instrument, are prone to complications and failures. To this end, it is recommended to inspect your stethoscope before using it as defects can result in wrong readings. Here are some tips on how to tell whether your stethoscope is fit for use:

  • Check for damages such as cracks on the diaphragm and cracks in the tubing.
  • Check for any stains or other obstructions on the ear-tips and diaphragm – the diaphragm should be plain or else readings will be distorted.
  • Ensure that the ear-tips face somewhat forward when you wear them – adjust them if necessary. This position helps cancel outside noises for accurate readings.

Related Read: A Small Change In Your Smartphone Can Save Your Life Someday!

Handling a Stethoscope

The manner in which you handle your stethoscope says a lot about your competence. It also affects the overall readings. It is, as such, important to ensure that you handle your stethoscope like a pro.

The first rule to using a stethoscope is ensuring that you hold the diaphragm gently between the middle and index fingers – a tight grip will distort the sound as it will amplify any rubbing movements and even collect faint sounds of your pulse.

The second is to always ensure that the diaphragm is placed gently on the skin for clear and audible sounds. 

Using a Stethoscope for Abdominal Auscultation

Abdominal auscultation is necessary for monitoring bowel motility and diagnosing other related conditions. Accurate measurements depend on positioning as well as your ability to discern sounds.

Experts recommend placing the diaphragm on any area around the belly button, but not on the belly button itself. This will offer good access to the bowel as it is free of bones and hard muscular tissues that may distort sounds.

You should listen for growling and grumbling sounds – these are the results of digestion and signify good health.

Any other sounds, or lack thereof, should be a cause for concern. It is recommended to check for abdominal auscultation sometime after the patient has eaten.

Important Read: 15 Foods That Will Keep A Heart Healthy And Decrease The Risk Of Attacks 

Using a Stethoscope to Check for Bruits

A bruit is a common symptom related to heart and vascular diseases. It is best defined as a vascular murmur that is produced when blood flows through the artery. Common causes are artillery obstruction and high blood flow in isolated parts of the body.

The best way to listen for bruits is by gently placing the stethoscope’s diaphragm on either side of Adam’s apple as this is where the carotid arteries are located – listen for a murmur. 


As established, success when using a stethoscope is about knowing where to position the diaphragm and knowing what to listen for. The above guidelines on how to use a stethoscope will put you on the level with the pros in no time.


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