Monday, December 11, 2006

New Doppler Stethoscope Turns Heart's Faint Pitter-Patter Into Noisy "Ta-Da-Ta"

news you may not know

You Call That


This is it - you're sure of it. No one has ever made you feel this way before. Well, there was Samantha. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous - flowing blonde locks, legs that were... Come on, get a grip. Samantha was beautiful, but - she was a Golden Retriever and you were five years old. Still...

The harvest moon looms large over the quiet lake, the gentle creaking of the porch swing the only sound. As if on cue, a crisp rush of fall air skitters across your neck and you and your true love draw closer. She rests her head on your chest and, prepared for this very moment, you reach into your jacket for the engagement ring. You steady yourself but, before you can speak, she recoils in disgust. "What ?! Did your heart just say, "Ta-Da-Ta?"" She runs off, calling back through her sobs, "And you said I made your heart go Pitter-Patter!"

...Such is the sad advance of modern stethoscope technology.

Challenged by the U. S. Army to develop a stethoscope capable of functioning in high-noise situations, researchers turned to ultrasound technology. The Army found current acoustic stethoscopes inadequate and the inability to use them when transporting soldiers in helicopters, during the first critical hour following injury, was of particular concern.

Ultrasound technology, utilizing the same Doppler effect as weather radar systems, produces an amplification of sound that makes for a noise-busting stethoscope. Current acoustic stethoscopes are effective up to about 80 decibels, the noise level of a busy city street. Electronic stethoscopes push the boundary only slightly, to perhaps 95 decibels. The new ultrasound stethoscopes are Rolling Stones impervious - capable of functioning at 120 decibels, the noise level experienced at the front row of a rock concert.

There is, apparently, but a single drawback. The traditional Pitter-Patter of the heart has always been perceived as a "Lub-Dub" sound by acoustic stethoscopes. Alas, the ultrasound stethoscopes render the heart's love song as an unfamiliar "Ta-Da-Ta." What to do? Explain to your fiancée that, overwhelmed with love, you taught your heart a new tune - tell her to think of it as, "Our song."

Read more about the new stethoscopes in ScienceDaily.


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