Stethoscopes can diagnose heart defects in children with 95 per cent accuracy, according to a city-based hospital's study, underscoring the utility of clinical examination in the initial screening for congenital cardiac conditions in kids in the current era of echocardiography.
The research, by Amrita Hospital here, found that a stethoscope could avoid unnecessary use of the more expensive investigations like echocardiography and allow for substantial reductions in healthcare costs, a release by the hospital said.
The original research, published in British Medical Journal, Pediatrics Open, involved 545 children with suspected congenital heart defects, it said.
"The study for the first time systematically tested the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination of the cardiovascular system in children and compared it with echocardiography, the current gold standard to diagnose heart conditions," it said.
According to R Krishna Kumar, Clinical Professor and Head, Pediatric Cardiology of the hospital, due to the availability of echocardiography there is a perception that physical examination of the patient with the age-old stethoscope is becoming redundant, the release said.
He also claimed that in the western countries use of stethoscopes has declined, but in India many doctors still use it and recommend echocardiography only when a significant heart condition is identified, the release also said.
"In our study, it could differentiate normal hearts from abnormal ones with an accuracy of 95 per cent and above. This shows that when applied correctly, stethoscopes could avoid unnecessary use of the more expensive investigations like echocardiography and allow for substantial reductions in healthcare costs and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
"This finding is of great significance for healthcare in low-resource settings like India," it quoted the doctor as having said.
It further said that the doctor was of the view that "the study underscores the utility of clinical examination in initial screening for commonly encountered congenital cardiac conditions in children even in the current era of echocardiography."