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Rene Laennec: The Man Who Invented Stethoscope

He invented the stethoscope but that wasn't his only major contribution or achievement in the medical field.

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Rene Laennec- The man who invented stethoscope. Wikimedia Commons
Rene Laennec- The man who invented stethoscope. Wikimedia Commons
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by Ruchika Verma

  • Rene Laennec invented stethoscopes in 1816
  • He also coined many other medical terms which helped us in understanding a different kind of diseases
  • His contribution in the field of medicine are immense and will always be remembered

One thing which is most frequently associated with a doctor is a stethoscope. Be it advertisements or real life, a stethoscope is one thing which we see hanging around every doctor’s neck.

The stethoscope is an instrument which is used by doctors to hear a patient’s heartbeats and to check their breathing. This medical instrument is used to hear the resonance of sounds made by our hearts and lungs for evaluative purposes. The instrument has been an object of fascination for a long time, because of its simple design, which consists of just a resonator and two tubes.

Stethoscopes are quintessential to a doctor. Pixabay.
Stethoscopes are quintessential to a doctor. Pixabay.

But who invented the stethoscope?

René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec or simply known as Rene Laennec, was a French physician who invented stethoscope in the year, 1816. He invented this medical instrument while working at the Necker Hospital in France, and used it in diagnosing various chest and lung conditions, pioneering the whole concept.

Rene-Laennec invented the Stethoscope. Wikimedia Commons
Rene-Laennec invented the Stethoscope in 1816. Wikimedia Commons

He was born on February 17, 1781, Brittany, France and died on August 13, 1826, Kerlouanec due to Tuberculosis.

Necessity for this invention

Rene Laennec invented stethoscopic or stethoscope because of his embarrassment while treating women. He didn’t like to put his ear at their chest in order to diagnose their problems, especially in the case of overweight women. He also found this method of listening to heartbeats very ineffective.

The original stethoscope was just a piece of paper rolled into a cylinder. Pixabay.
The original stethoscope was just a piece of paper rolled into a cylinder. Pixabay.

As a result, he invented an instrument which won’t require him to put his ear on his patient’s chest and will be more effective. He rolled a piece of paper into a cylinder and placed one side on the patient’s chest and the other near his ear. He found that he could hear the sounds better.

His contributions to the Medical Field 

He invented the stethoscope but that wasn’t his only major contribution or achievement in the medical field.

He famously coined the term ‘melanoma’, which is a type of cancer that typically occurs in the skin but rarely occur in the mouth or intestines. He was the one who recognised that melanotic lesions are the result of metastatic melanoma.

Laennec is also well known for his studies of peritonitis, amenorrhea and tubercle lesions. He also coined the term cirrhosis, which is a lung disease. His works played a huge role in the understanding the of this disease.

You may also like: Acharya Charaka: Indian father Of Medicine, Author of Charaka Samhita “science of Ayurveda” 

A difference in the design of Traditional and Modern Stethoscopes

The modern stethoscopes that we see today are not what Rene Laennec invented. His original design was rather simple. The doctor’s stethoscope that we see today is much more complex that Laennec’s simple design.

His original design was just a tube, which could be made of wood and copper. It could be assembled and dissembled easily as per the convenience of the physician. The new age stethoscope is a modification of his original design.

The original design of Rene Laennac's stethoscope. Wikimedia Commons
The original design of Rene Laennec’s stethoscope. Wikimedia Commons

His original stethoscope was replaced by the stethoscopes using rubber tubes by end of the 19th century.

A modern day stethoscope using rubber tubes and a resonator. Pixabay
A modern-day stethoscope using rubber tubes and a resonator. Pixabay

Achievements

The government of France honoured Rene Laennec with First Prize in Medicine and Sole Prize in Surgery in 1803.

He was also conferred with the title of the ‘Knight of the Legion of Honor’ in 1824.

His contributions in the medical fields are immense and for it, he will always be remembered.

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Cigars, Pipes Tied To Same Risks As Cigarettes

Traditionally, doctors have asked just whether people smoked cigarettes, but they should instead be questioning patients more broadly about tobacco use

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E-cigarettes
E-cigarettes is considered to be safer than tobacco cigarettes. Pixabay
  • Cigarettes are not the only tobacco products which can cause death
  • Other tobacco products like cigars and pipes are just harmful
  • All these tobacco products can cause cancer

Cigarettes are not the only type of tobacco products that can lead to premature death or fatalities from smoking-related cancers, a U.S. study confirms.

While people who exclusively smoke cigarettes have twice the risk of premature death from all causes compared to people who avoid tobacco altogether, exclusive cigar smokers have a 20 percent higher risk of early death, researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Cigarettes are not the only harmful tobacco products available in the market. Pixabay
Cigarettes are not the only harmful tobacco products available in the market. Pixabay

When it comes to fatalities from specific cancers that have been tied to tobacco use, cigarette smokers have four times the risk of people who never used tobacco, but cigar smokers are 61 percent more likely to die of these cancers and pipe users have 58 percent higher odds.

“We knew exclusive users of cigars and pipes were at greater risk of disease than people who do not use tobacco,” said lead study author Carol Christensen of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products. “However, this study provides information that reflects today’s patterns of tobacco use.”

Also Read: Banning E-Cigarettes Deprives Indian Smokers of a Less Harmful Alternative: Experts

These data “underscore the importance of complete quitting,” Christensen said by email.

For the study, researchers examined nationally representative survey data, collected starting in 1985, from 357,420 participants who were followed through 2011.

Overall, 203,071 people, or about 57 percent, never used tobacco at all. Another 57,251 participants were current daily cigarette smokers, while 9,414 said they had a less frequent habit and 77,773 were former cigarette smokers.

In addition, 531 people were current daily cigar smokers, while 608 individuals used cigars less frequently and 2,398 had quit.

For pipes, 1,099 participants had a current daily habit, while 78 people used pipes less often and 5,237 had quit.

Pipes, hookahs and all other tobacco products are just as harmful as a cigarette. post-gazette.com
Pipes, hookahs and all other tobacco products are just as harmful as a cigarette. post-gazette.com

During the study period, 51,150 people died of all causes.

With a daily cigarette, cigar or pipe habit, people had an elevated risk of death from tobacco-related cancers including malignancies of the bladder, oesophagus, larynx, lung, mouth and throat, and pancreas.

Nondaily users

Even with a nondaily cigarette habit, people were more than six times more likely to die of lung cancer than individuals who never used tobacco. They also had more than seven times the risk of dying from a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, more than four times the odds of death from oral cancers, and 43 percent higher odds of death from a circulatory system disorder.

Current cigar smokers had more than three times the odds of dying of lung cancer, and for current pipe smokers, the risk was 51 percent higher, compared with never-smokers.

The results were limited, however, by the relatively small numbers of cigar and pipe smokers in the sample, the authors noted.

Cigarettes, hookah, pipes, cigars all are equally harmful.
Cigarettes, hookah, pipes, cigars all are equally harmful.

Another limitation was that survey questions about tobacco use changed over time and didn’t determine how often nondaily smokers might have used cigarettes, cigars or pipes.

Even so, the results suggest that doctors may need to broaden how they discuss smoking with patients to make sure people understand they’re at risk even when they don’t have a daily habit, said Dr. Michael Ong of the University of California-Los Angeles and VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Also Read:  Beware! Vapor smoke from E-cigarettes are just as harmful, says a new research

“Patients often do not associate the occasional use of cigar or pipes with health risks, but this study shows that current, particularly daily, cigar use is associated with increased overall risk of death,” Ong, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

Doctors also need to broaden their message about smoking and cigarettes to include other tobacco products that are becoming more popular, said Judith Prochaska, a researcher at Stanford University in California who wasn’t involved in the study.

e-cigarettes
Smoking e-cigarettes are not a healthier alternative to smoking. cigarettes Pixabay

Traditionally, doctors have asked just whether people smoked cigarettes, but they should instead be questioning patients more broadly about tobacco use, Prochaska said by email.

“The tobacco landscape has been changing dramatically,” Prochaska added. “While cigarettes remain the primary tobacco product used, cigars, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookah, and even pipe tobacco have seen gains in use, while cigarette use in the U.S. has been declining.” VOA