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September 12, 1997


Indian software wires the stethoscope

A unique low-cost software to diagnose diseases by analysing the sounds within the body has been developed by defence scientists in collaboration with two Hyderabad-based institutes.

Scientists from the Delhi-based Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences along with doctors and engineers of the Cardiovascular Technology Institute and Software experts of a computer firm in Hyderabad, have developed a computerised stethoscope to accurately diagnose diseases through 'auscultation' or the act of listening to sounds arising within organs such as lungs.

The conventional stethoscope is normally used by doctors to listen to body sounds to assess the functioning of an organ or detect a disease and make a provisional diagnosis.

They would normally go in for further investigations for confirmation of the initial diagnosis. The advantage of a computerised stethoscope is that it will pick up even subtle sounds and digitise and process them for analysis, according to Cardiovascular Institute of Technology Director Arun K Tiwari.

He said the cost of the indigenous equipment would be around Rs 12,000 as against its imported equivalent which would cost Rs 100,000.

For instance, it could listen to the abdomen for sounds made by movement of fluid through the intestine. Its software would then identify the disorder of the intestine by analysing the sounds to be absent, abnormal or very loud. Similarly, the analysis of sounds made during breathing would provide an accurate diagnosis of various lung diseases by indicating the presence of crackles and dry or moist wheeze.

Tiwari said the computerised stethoscope would detect sounds below 20 hertz and even those beyond 20 kilohertz which are normally not audible to the human ear.

The software has already been developed to analyse the breath sounds to indicate the presence of pneumonia, bronchitis or asthma, according to r Gurumoorthy, director of the software firm, which was a collaborator. The software could analyse sounds called 'crepitations' which would resemble cracking or bubbling caused by fluids in the lungs and wheezing sounds resulting from the spasm of the airways as in asthma.

The software meant for testing vocal resonance by analysing whisper sounds of the patient while talking was under development.

Tiwari hopes that by analysing the sounds made by the turbulent or abnormally fast blood circulation in the blood vessels near the skin surface even cardiovascular diseases like narrowing of blood vessels (as by fatty deposits in arthoscelerosis) or widening of blood vessels (as by aneurysm) could be diagnosed by computer-aided auscultation.


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