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Editor's Correspondence
November 24, 2003

Stethoscopes as Neckwear—Reply

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(21):2653. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.21.2652-a

In reply

I appreciated Dr Caplan bringing to my attention the "relatively new phenomenon" of wearing the stethoscope draped around the neck and hope I do not disappoint him by not being able to shed light on how patients view this style of carriage. I can offer my personal opinion, however, which is not complimentary. I have observed this increasing trend beginning with pediatricians in the mid-1960s and its spreading to virtually all groups of individuals who carry a stethoscope at the present. I find it most unattractive from an infection control point of view in that absent careful washing of all elements of the instrument, it could facilitate direct transfer of pathogens from the patient to the stethoscope wearer. It has been my observation that wearing this particular iatric fomite is not confined to the hospitalists and that the habit is universal; the instrument is occasionally taken off the neck, used to auscult, and then replaced, most likely along with its new legions of bacteria, spores, viruses, assorted excreta, and detritus.

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