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March 27, 1967


JAMA. 1967;199(13):999. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120130085019

Not long ago, it appeared as if the electrocardiograph, the fluoroscope, the phonocardiograph, and the cardiac catheter had joined in conspiracy to render the stethoscope obsolete. Mournful communications prophesied a future in which Laennec's great invention would be entirely forgotten. Wistful editorials made comment on the decline of auscultation. A renowned radiologist was rumored to have displayed a stethoscope as a museum piece in a glass case. The noble instrument which had served the physician so well was on its way out, it seemed.

Subsequent developments did not bear out the sad expectation. If anything, the advent of surgery for congenital and rheumatic heart disease enhanced the value of cardiac auscultation. Listening for abnormal sounds is no longer a mere academic exercise in the diagnosis of incurable lesions, but an effort often well rewarded by therapeutic success.

Usefulness of the stethoscope has also extended beyond the boundaries of the thoracic