No longer "boy O boy"

Based on an analysis of the characteristics of respiratory sounds, the Respiratory Sounds Visualizer app generates this diagnostic chart. The total area in red represents the overall volume of sound, and the proportion of red around each line from the center to each vertex represents the proportion of the overall sound that each respiratory sound contributes. Credit: Shinichiro Ohshimo et al./Annals of Internal Medicine

In Italy the physician for testing the lungs asks the patient to say 33 (trentatre). In US they asks the patient to say 99 (ninety nine) or "boy O boy".

In a few years these might become a thing of the past.

A team of physician researchers at Hiroshima University, Fukushima University and Pioneer corporation has invented an electronic stethoscope consisting of a microphone to capture lungs sounds and an app, Respiratory Sound Visualiser, that converts the sounds into an image that provides a visual representation of the intensity of the five sound characteristics associated to respiratory problems: normal, coarse crackle, fine crackle, wheeze and rhonchi.

And here it goes another hundred years long medical practice.

A good physician with a fine ear can detect subtle variances in the sounds created by breathing. This comes after many years of experience and clearly is a subjective sensation.

In this case, the Respiratory Sound Visualiser was trained with the sounds of 878 patients whose sounds were analysed and classified by doctors. The apps analyse the sound spectrum and plots on a spider chart the intensity of the sound characteristics. This provides a clear view on the breathing of that patient.

One of the interest in this app is the objectivity of the result. This can be recorded and compared over subsequent examinations. Also, one can imagine in perspective to have this kind of examination self performed by the patient at home, and results relayed to the doctor for remote analyses.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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