New Stethoscope Lets Docs Hear, See Inside Chest
Device Lets Doctors View Chest Sounds On Computer

BOSTON -- When it comes to breathing problems you need the right answers, and fast.

NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh said that you've got a real advantage if you're in Boston because a few local hospitals are now using a new high tech stethoscope that's making difficult diagnoses easier.

Jane McCrory is an active 69-year-old, but last year, she was sidelined by an attack on her lungs.

"I was having real trouble breathing, never experienced anything like it before," McCrory said.

At the hospital, McCrory was told she had asthma. She was given steroids to help her breathe.

"If someone has asthma, we hear a wheeze," Dr. Ray Murphy said.

Murphy wasn't convinced of the diagnosis and tried a new device on McCrory that he invented. It's a stethoscope that allows doctors to hear chest sounds through 16 listening devices at once and actually see them on a computer.

"I heard an unusual sound, called a squawk, not common in asthma," Murphy said.

The sounds he heard screamed pneumonia, meaning McCrory needed antibiotics -- not steroids.

"I got better quickly, and never had another attack," McCrory said.

Murphy has spent more than 30 years trying to make a better stethoscope. Computer technology finally made his dream a reality. He's developed two versions -- the 16-channel stethoscope hooked up to a computer and monitor and a portable version that connects to a regular palm pilot, yet still allows the physician to both hear and see chest sounds.

Cardiologist Gary Brockington uses it to help his heart patients.

"What this allows us to do is separate different aspects of what's going on with a patient and come up with the best diagnosis quickly," Brockington said.

The stethoscope has been around for 200 years. Murphy believes he's finally made it better.

The device received FDA approval last month, and in addition to being used locally at Faulkner Hospital, St. Elizabeth's and Brigham and Women's, it has caught the ear of several prestigious national clinics.

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