Recording my heart beat with a surprise ending

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for littmannteam.jpg

Here’s the crew who did it, left to right, Tim Chismar, Jared Sorensen, Curt Morgan and Craig Oster all members of the Littmann team from Maplewood-based 3M.

Among other uses, they helped create a better way to train medical students how to listen to hearts.

I asked a friend who’s a medical doctor, who happens to have a very dry wit, to describe the old training method.

“In the not too distant ‘bad old days’ medical students learned about heart sounds on live patients,” he said, “the dead ones had no heartbeat. They’d take turns listening after a teacher had described what they would hear, and try to convince themselves that they really heard it.”

Then came the 3M product, the 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200 with Bluetooth Technology. Put on the market in 2009 it allows as many as five people to listen in at the same time to the same heart beat. That allows the lead doctor to explain what they’re hearing.

Bluetooth means the students don’t even have to be in the same place looking at the patient.

The telemedicine angle is probably at least as big as the teaching angle.

3M says the Bluetooth feature isn’t just valuable for teaching; consider its advantages for second opinions. With 3M’s Littmann scope-to-scope Tele-Auscultation System the patient’s heartbeat can be phoned to another set of ears far away so they can offer another opinion.

Ok, that’s the newsy part of the blog. Now the back story.

When I was getting ready to do my story on story the University of Minnesota’s Visible Heart Lab I thought it would be fun to open with the sound of my own heart beat.

Recording my heart beat was not as easy as one might think.

Before calling the folks at 3M I tried the dumb thing – putting a microphone on my chest.

That didn’t work.

How about recording the sound out of an earpiece from a standard medical doctor’s acoustic stethoscope?

Again, a no go.

The story was completed, but with a heart beat recording from a different source.

By then, I’d already contacted 3M and even though the story was over and done they were delighted to show me a new product that, indeed, did record my heart beat, and here it is.

Cardiologists of the world, please listen and let me know how much longer you think I have.

Big thanks to colleague Jon Gordon for figuring out a way to get my heart thump out into the blogosphere.

Now for some stethoscope history and the promised surprise ending.

Chances are the gizmo your doctor or nurse uses is an acoustic Littmann stethoscope. Place it on your chest and the head pick ups the sound of the beating heart and sends it through the tubes to the earpieces.

It’s been the industry standard for years.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for david.jpg

The stethoscope is named for the late Dr. David Littmann, a German-born cardiologist, eventually a Harvard medical professor. That’s him, in a 1972 photo courtesy the Harvard University Gazette.

3M purchased his company in 1967, hired him as a consultant and started making more and better Littmann stethoscopes.

Finally, we’re here, at the surprise ending:

The new Littmann 3200 with Bluetooth, sort of the Mercedes Benz, one might say, of the stethoscope world is made in Minnesota.

Yes, that is correct. Not in China, Malaysia or where ever. In Minnesota.

Comments are closed.