Friday, December 16, 2016

Best Stethoscope for Medical Students

Ever wonder what the best stethoscope for medical school is? Before considering specific models, a medical student should consider several factors:

  • Quality
  • Anticipated Usage
  • Comfort
  • Cost
  • Additional features
First and foremost, the stethoscope should faithfully reproduce sounds originating from the target organ. While the majority of stethoscope usage is for the heart, the device is also used to auscultate the lungs, abdomen, carotid arteries, and other various structures as indicated. A useful device should perform well across this range of indications. 

Anticipated Usage
Do you foresee using this only for required rotations and no more? Or, do you foresee doing a lot of primary clinical work, or perhaps even becoming a cardiologist? If you anticipate having a long-term relationship with your stethoscope, it is better to invest in a higher quality, more versatile device. 

This varies by individual, but if this is something you need to carry around all day, you want to make sure it's lightweight, portable, and sets comfortably in your ears. 

Medical school is expensive enough. While a stethoscope is a great investment, you want to make sure it is the right one for you. The budding cardiologist is likely to get more out of the extra dollar spent than the future psychiatrist. 

Additional Features
Newer stethoscopes now include various extensions, such as smartphone apps or other technology. Each person will have to decide on their own if such items are necessary. 

In the US, the majority of medical students, residents, and physicians using Littmann stethoscopes by 3M. They perform well and have stood the test of time. The overall most common type is the 3M Littmann Cardiology III: 


  • Two-in-one tube design reduces noise interference
  • Dual side chestpiece for adult and pediatric patients
  • Two tunable diaphragms
  • Weight: 15.7 ounces

Cons: Cost

Personally, I have owned a Cardiology III for years and have had zero issues with it. I have never encountered a clinical situation in which the Cardiology III was not up to the task, or felt that I wish I had a different stethoscope. Littmann has released the Cardiology IV, which is very highly reviewed but looks to be mostly evolutionary changes over the III. For the future cardiologist, the Master Cardiology version is a consideration, but likely too advanced for the beginning medical student.

For the more budget conscious student, the next best option is the 3M Littmann Cardiology II SE: 

Unlike the III, the II SE has slightly lower acoustic performance and a shorter warranty. However, it is a more economical choice.

Here is a table with a full comparison of Littmann stethoscopes features:

 Classic II S.E.Classic IIIMaster Classic II
Acoustic Performance789
Ideal ForPhysical Assessment and DiagnosisPhysical Assessment and DiagnosisPhysical Assessment and Diagnosis
Warranty3 Years5 Years3 Years
Chestpiece Design/MaterialDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelSingle Sided/Plated and Polished Alloy
Available Colors/Finishes6 Colors/ 2 Finishes18 Colors/ 4 Finishes9 Colors/ 2 Finishes
Tunable DiaphragmTunable DiaphragmRedesigned Single-Piece Tunable Diaphragm on Each Side of the ChestpieceTunable Diaphragm
Tube DesignSingle Lumen TubingSingle Lumen TubingSingle Lumen Tubing
Weight/Length135 grams, 28"/71cm150 grams, 27"/69cm160 grams, 27"/69cm
Made in USA

Cardiology IIICardiology IVMaster Cardiology
Acoustic Performance9910
Ideal ForCardiology/High PerformanceCardiology/High PerformanceCardiology/High Performance
Warranty5 Years7 Years7 Years
Chestpiece Design/MaterialDouble Sided/Machine Stainless SteelDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelSingle Sided/Cast Stainless Steel
Available Color/Finishes16 Colors/ 6 Finishes7 Colors/ Stainless Steel Finish7 Colors/ 3 Finishes
Tunable DiaphragmTwo Tunable DiaphragmsRedesigned Single-Piece Tunable Diaphragm on Each Side of the ChestpieceTunable Diaphragm
Tube DesignDual Lumen TubingDual Lumen TubingDual Lumen Tubing
Weight/Length175, 180 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm167, 177 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm175, 185 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm
Made in the USA
Source: Amazon 

Have questions about your stethoscope choice? Feel free to contact us using the link at the top of this page. Happy hunting!

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