UltraStethoscope is a unique stethoscope developed by HIC, capable of operating through many layers of clothing. Conventional stethoscopes must usually be placed directly on the skin. The UltraStethoscope is a non-invasive device which simply collects sound emanating through a surface.
This advantage gives the device practical uses in many situations, including those where clothing cannot be removed, such as in the high cold mountain regions where undressing an injured climber or skier is very undesirable. Another possible use is to listen to the heart sounds of patients covered by bandages. The stethoscope has been identified to assist in Search & Rescue, where it would not be possible to remove patients' clothing.
Recent feedback also suggests the device can prove useful when dealing with morbidly obese patients, as in such patients breath, upper airway and heart sounds are attenuated by the overabundance of fatty tissue resident in the auscultation pathway.
The UltraStethoscope has been used by a member of the British Antarctic Survey to detect and monitor the heart beat of seals through their thick sound-attenuating layers of fat. Cambridge University Disability Resources Centre was an early customer for the UltraStethoscope.
Because the device has variable gain giving an amplified acoustic output, doctors with various degrees of deafness have also purchased these units.
The device also works as a normal stethoscope but provides additional functions, including the ability to output data to a computer - useful for serial comparison of data. This feature makes the device suitable for applications in teaching laboratories of colleges and universities.
The device has high mechanical and electronic signal gain and variable volume, allowing sounds to be heard through conventional headphones. One effect of using high amplification is that environmental sounds are also amplified. HIC has incorporated various features to minimise unwanted sound being heard by the user. For example, the device has built in filtration which can be switched between 100Hz, 200Hz and 1kHz. These blocking filters curtail unwanted environmental noise reaching the headphones.
The UltraStethoscope has a long running time thanks to the inclusion of built in high power rechargeable batteries.
HIC have also developed a system whereby heart sounds can be transmitted to a receiver and heard through a loudspeaker.
Another version already developed is an optosonic stethoscope, where a bright LED light flashes in synchrony with the detected periodic acoustic signals. We would like to hear from those who have an application where this version of the device might be employed.
Software has been developed to record, analyse and display sounds captured by the UltraStethoscope:
The same software is so versatile that it can be used to analyse ultrasonic Doppler signals from the clinical version of Breastchecker. Versions designed for PC and Apple computers are available.
Apart from this major advantage of PC compatibility and replay there is another important feature, namely that the UltraStethoscope does not require skin contact but works well through clothing. We believe this should obviate the risk of patient-to-patient infections known to be carried by conventional devices.