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Is the Stethoscope Obsolete?

Some doctors say there's a new, better medical tool.

The days of the stethoscope may be numbered. Medical experts say advances in technology will soon make the 200 year old device obsolete. More and more doctors are adopting handheld ultrasounds which can look into the chest.

Dr. Jagat Narula wrote an editorial in the Journal Global Heart suggesting that handheld ultrasound devices offer faster, more accurate diagnoses than traditional physical exams and should become standard care.

Ultrasound uses sound waves to reflect images from inside the body.  Experts say it's safe, radiation-free and painless. Dr. Bret Nelson, from Mt. Sinai Hospital says his emergency department uses it to diagnose almost everything. 

Some cardiologists argue that ultrasound may not be the best device for all doctors because extensive training is necessary to read the images accurately.

Dr. Sahil Parikh from Case Medical Center says,"it's complex and difficult to interpret in the hands of the average physician and I think it will be generations before we see the disappearance of the stethoscope."

Cost is another factor. A handheld ultrasound costs thousands of dollars.  While the price is expected to drop significantly in the coming years, the stethoscope runs under $25.  

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