Background and aim. Two hundred years ago Laennec, a young French physician discovered the stethoscope, in order to improve the lung auscultation. The stethoscope became the emblematic appendix of the physicians. Nurses use it also to monitor patients and medical students are proud to use it. We critically review the significance of the stethoscope 200 years after its discovery.

Methods. Pertinent literature was searched on PubMed and Google about the stethoscope, using also other terms: auscultation, Laennec, medical education, clinical diagnosis. Data were collected in a narrative review.

Results. Two centuries after its invention, the stethoscope still remains a major tool in the hands of healthcare professionals. It is routinely used by medical doctors and has become a mark of their status. Nurses use it also to monitor heart rate and blood pressure. Medical students get familiarized to use it during the medical faculty. Patients perceive the stethoscope as an important symbol of the medical profession.

Conclusions. Two hundred years ago the stethoscope was invented by Laennec. Despite the advent of X rays, CT, ECG, echocardiography and more recently of the electronic stethoscope, the classical stethoscope invented by Laennec still has its major role in the representation of healthcare providers and is a major utility in clinical diagnosis.


clinical practice, education, history of medicine, stethoscope