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A Comparative Study of Electronic Stethoscopes for Cardiac Auscultation

Pinto, C. Pinto ; Pereira, D. ; Ferreira-Coimbra, J. ; Português, J. ; Gama, V. ; Coimbra, M.

A Comparative Study of Electronic Stethoscopes for Cardiac Auscultation, Proc Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), Jeju Island, Korea, South, Vol. , pp. - , July, 2017.

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There are several electronic stethoscopes available on the market today, with a very high potential for healthcare namely telemedicine, assisted decision and education. However, there are no recent comparatives studies published about the recording quality of auscultation sounds. In this study we aim to: a) define a ranking, according to experts opinion of 6 of the most relevant electronic stethoscopes on the market today; b) verify if there are any relations between a stethoscope's performance and the type of pathology present; c) analyze if some pathologies are more easily identified than others when using electronic auscultation. Our methodology consisted in creating two study groups: the first group included 18 cardiologists and cardiology house officers, acting as the gold standard of this work. The second included 30 medical students. Using a database of heart sounds recorded in real hospital environments, we applied questionnaires to observers from each group. The first group listened to 60 cardiac auscultations recorded by the 6 stethoscopes, and each one was asked to identify the pathological sound present: aortic stenosis, mitral regurgitation or normal. The second group was asked to choose, between two auscultation recordings, using as criteria the best sound quality for the identification of pathological sounds. Results include a total of 1080 evaluations, in which 72% of cases were correctly diagnosed. A detailed breakdown of these results is presented in this paper. As conclusions, results showed that the impact of the differences between stethoscopes is very small, given that we did not find statistically significant differences between all pairs of stethoscopes. Normal sounds showed to be easier to identify than pathological sounds, but we did not find differences between stethoscopes in this identification.