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Auscultation

Definition

Auscultation is listening to the sounds of the body during a physical examination.

Information

Auscultation is usually done using a tool called a stethoscope. Health care providers routinely listen to a person's lungs, heart, and intestines to evaluate these things about the sounds:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Duration
  • Number
  • Quality

Providers also use auscultation to listen to the heart sounds of unborn infants. This can be done with a stethoscope or with sound waves (called Doppler ultrasound).

Auscultation can also be used to hear pulses in the arms and legs.

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Examination techniques and equipment. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 3.

Swartz MH. The physical examination. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 4.


Review Date: 5/14/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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