Devices & Diagnostics

The Importance of 4 Common Medical Devices in Diagnosis

The stethoscope, the sphygmomanometer, the ophthalmoscope, and the otoscope are used every day in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medical schools across the world – but how important are they in real diagnosis? Here we’ll explore the most common medical devices used and how effective they are in providing the vital information doctors use to diagnose […]

The stethoscope, the sphygmomanometer, the ophthalmoscope, and the otoscope are used every day in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medical schools across the world – but how important are they in real diagnosis? Here we’ll explore the most common medical devices used and how effective they are in providing the vital information doctors use to diagnose common medical conditions.

The Stethoscope

Featured in every Hollywood medical scene, the Stethoscope has become the major identifier of the doctor, right next to the white lab coat. Its fame aside, the stethoscope provides a myriad of information to nurses, general practitioners, and specialists alike, using delicate tuning to provide instantaneous data.

The first piece of the device, the chest-piece, is laid against a patient’s chest, back, or other area of inspection. The larger component of the chest-piece uses a twin set of discs linked to a bell to bring both low-pitch sounds and high-pitched sounds out to the forefront of our listening range. The sounds travel through tubing that splits the sounds into two separate channels, where it is delivered into the ear.

Stethoscopes are used by nurses, general practitioners, and specialists alike to initially detect major and minor heart and lung conditions, such as:

  • Heart Disease
  • Arrhythmia (Heart beating too fast, two slow, or at an irregular interval)
  • Valve problems
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

Stethoscopes come in various types, specially formulated to detect specific sounds and assist in diagnosis in cardiology, pediatric, veterinary services, teaching scenarios, and come in a multiple formats, such as electronic, high-use, and disposable.

The Sphygmomanometer

There are many types of blood pressure monitors. The manual, the aneroid and the digital sphygmomanometer are the most common and they all measure the pressure of the blood as it moves through the body.

The sphygmomanometer typically cuts off blood flow for a moment (when the bag inflates) and harmlessly causes the pressure to build up inside the blood vessel. When blood flow is sporadically restored (when the bag begins to deflate), the rate of the blood’s flow is displayed either on a panel, digitally, or as heard through a stethoscope, as a numbered reading.

Depending on the exact type and model of the sphygmomanometer, the blood pressure is rendered directly through systolic/diastolic readings or indirectly through arterial pressure.

There is also wide variation in accuracy and reliability. Manual sphygmomanometers are considered the most reliable because they do not require routine calibration, while certain aneroid monitors can lose their calibration if treated haphazardly. Digital finger monitors, while highly portable, are less accurate. The perfect sphygmomanometer often depends on conditions under which they are required.

Common Conditions Diagnosed with the Help of the Sphygmomanometer

  • High Blood Pressure (a potentially deadly condition)
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Hypotension
  • Arterial Plaque
  • Diabetes
  • Hardening of the Arteries

The Ophthalmoscope

Using a complex arrangement of light, mirrors and lenses, the ophthalmoscope allows doctors and nurses to see the inside and rear of the eye, called the fundus. The hand-held version people are most accustomed to seeing on a regular check-up, is the direct ophthalmoscope. The indirect version is much larger, typically worn on the head of the examining doctor, and used with a hand-held lens. These are used during more complicated exams, when a larger view of the internal eye is necessary.

The Ophthalmoscope can be successfully used to diagnose:

  • Bacterial Infections
  • Detached Retina (manifested by tiny spots that drift across the field of vision)
  • Serious conditions like Glaucoma

 

The Otoscope

The Otoscope is the diagnostic tool doctors and nurses use to examine the inner ear, the part of the body that not only controls hearing, but also our motion and sense of balance. It exposes the middle ear, ear canal and tympanic membrane (ear-drum) to an examiner’s close attention using a bright light, a lens, along with a disposable specula used to widen the canal.

A physician or registered nurse is able to diagnose an array of medical conditions from this up-close view on the inner ear, from the common conditions such as swimmer’s ear to much more serious conditions.

Diagnosable Conditions from Use of the Otoscope:

  • Ear Infections
  • Swimmers Ear
  • Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
  • The possible causes of Dizziness or Vertigo
  • Meniere’s Disease

Proper use of medical equipment can literally be a life-saving affair. Like any tool, the efficacy of the item often depends on the skill of its user and the circumstances of its use so proper research should always be devoted to choosing the correct device for the situation.

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