Stethoscope brands – A short overview

stethoscope brands

There are several stethoscope brands out there. Most of you probably know Littmann as being the lead-name in the world of stethoscopes. However A lot of you won’t have heard of “Vorfreude” or “ThinkLabs“.

First let’s take a look at the biggest of the stethoscope brands out there: Littmann.

Littmann stethoscopes

stethoscope brands, littmann stethoscopesstethoscope brands, littmann stethoscopestethoscope brands, littmann stethoscopestethoscope brands, littmann stethocopestethoscope brands, littmann stethoscopes
Classic IIIMaster Classic IICardiology IIICardiology IVMaster Cardiology
Acoustic Performance899910
Ideal For Diagnosis and Physical AssessmentDiagnosis and Physical Assessment‎Cardiology/High PerformanceCardiology/High PerformanceCardiology/High Performance
Warranty2 Years 3 Years5 Years7 Years7 Years
Chestpiece Design/MaterialDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelSingle Sided/Plated and Polished AlloyDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelDouble Sided/Machined Stainless SteelSingle Sided/Cast Stainless Steel
Available Color/Finishes18 Colors/ 4 Finishes9 Colors/ 2 Finishes16 Colors/ 6 Finishes7 Colors/ Stainless Steel Finish7 Colors/ 3 Finishes
Diaphragm – tunable: hear different frequency sounds without turning over or repositioningRedesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the ChestpieceTunable DiaphragmTwo Tunable DiaphragmsRedesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the ChestpieceTunable Diaphragm
Tube DesignSingle Lumen TubingSingle Lumen TubingDual Lumen TubingDual Lumen TubingDual Lumen Tubing
Weight/Length150 grams, 27″/69cm160 grams, 27″/69cm175, 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

Littmann has quickly become the marketleader in stethoscopes. 3M bought the patent to make Littmann stethoscopes from doctor Littmann somewhere in the 60’s and they’ve been making them ever since.
As a whole 3M is a gigantic company that has processes in place that guarantee superior quality. As a result these stethoscopes guarantee you high-quality acoustics.

However between the models themselves there are big differences in quality.

For example a Littmann Classic has been reported to better convey low-frequency sounds than a Littmann LightWeight. As a result I have not listed the LightWeight here either.

 

Vorfreude stethoscopes

Among the stethoscope brands there is a new player on the US markets. Vorfreude.

This German engineered stethoscope has been receiving rave reviews both on Amazon and on various online forums.

Lighter than Littmann

First off the Vorfreude stethoscope is light. About 5 % lighter than a Littmann Master Cardiology. Even though it has the same dimensions!
As a result the likelyhood of you having a strained neck is diminished when you carry your Vorfreude around your neck. Additionally the diaphragm edges have a mirror finish to prevent corrosion and pitting.

In addition this stethoscope comes in at a fraction of a cost compared to a Littmann.

 

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Stethoscope brands copy each other

The funny thing is is that the industry is really small. Especially in the stethoscope industry where you have a big player such as Littmann, the smaller fish tend to look what the bigger one is doing and then copy them.

So in the same sense that Littmann has a tunable diaphragm, so does Vorfreude. However they have rebranded their technoogy as “PressFrequency”. But the working principle remains the same in both. The chestpiece does not have a bell-side. Just a diaphragm. Simply press down harder on the chestpiece to hear the high-frequency sounds.

Lastly the dual lumen tube design and single head eliminate ambient noise interference. Which is a major plus if you are an EMT.

 

 

ADC Adscope stethoscopes

 

In several reviews online ADC Adscope has gone out to rival Littmann as you can clearly make out from the review video above. Cost-wise they come in at several multiples less than Littmann. As mentioned in the Vorfreude section also ADC isn’t the biggest player amongst the stethoscope brands and as such tends to copy the technology Littmann brings out. However they can’t call their technology a “tunable” chestpiece since Littmann has the copyrights to that. ADC’s “AFD technology” however does exactly that. If you want to hear more higher frequency sounds simply press down harder on the chestpiece and you’ll be fine!

 

stethoscope adc adscope clinician american diagnostic acoutstic adjustable frequency headset eartip stethoscope adc adscope clinician american diagnostic acoutstic adjustable frequency headset eartip stethoscope adc adscope clinician american diagnostic acoutstic adjustable frequency headset eartip stethoscope adc adscope clinician american diagnostic acoutstic adjustable frequency headset eartip
ADC Adscope 603 ADC Adscope 609 ADC Adscope 612 ADC Adscope 615
Scope Type Clinician Clinician Clinician Clinician
Chestpiece Type Combination Combination AFD Technology AFD Technology
Chestpiece Material Stainless Aluminum Zinc Zinc
Chestpiece Finish Satin Satin Satin Brushed
Diaphragm Diameter 1-3/4″ 1-3/4″ 1-1/2″ 2 3/16″
Headset Type Clinician Clinician Clinician Clinician
Headset Material Stainless Aluminum Stainless Stainless
Eartip Type Adsoft Plus Adsoft Plus Adsoft Plus Adsoft Plus
Total Weight 5.8 oz 3.5 oz 4.9 oz 5.4 oz
Colors and Finishes Tactical finish with black tubing, copper finish with black tubing, or stainless finish with one of twenty-two tubing colors Tactical finish with black tubing or aluminum finish with one of seventeen tubing colors Zinc/aluminum finish with one of five tubing colors Tactical finish with black tubing or zinc/stainless finish with one of nine tubing colors

 

 

MDF stethoscopes

As American as they come, MDF is a small manufacturer stethoscopes and other healthcare devices. They’ve been in business since 1971 and are headquartered in LA. They are known for competing on price with Littmann. However they both provide roughly the same quality stethoscope.

Depending on who you ask the reason why they can offer such a low price is because they manufacture their products in Asia. At the same time cheaper substitutes have been used by MDF where Littmann would maybe use a more expensive material. Mostly people have commented that the diaphragm quality is that of a cheap stethoscope and the bell part is plastic.

A big benefit however of this stethoscope brands is their lifetime warranty and free parts-for-life program.

See below how the MDF stethoscopes pare up to the Littmanns.

 

Customer Rating 4 out of 5 stars (751) 4 out of 5 stars (2079) 4 out of 5 stars (3747) 4 out of 5 stars (625) 4 out of 5 stars (751) 4 out of 5 stars (28)
Price $$ $$$ $$ $ $ $$$$
Sold By Coastal Clothing Company Amazon.com Corydor MDF Instruments Official Store Amazon.com MDF Instruments Official Store
Color All Black (BlackOut) Black Tube Black All Black (BlackOut) Tactical Black All Black (BlackOut)
Item Dimensions 6.42 x 12.91 x 2.2 in 6.61 x 12.72 x 1.73 in 5.13 x 9.75 x 1.75 in 5 x 9.5 x 1.6 in 0.94 x 31 x 4.19 in 16.3 x 32.8 x 5.6 in
Item Weight 1 lb 5.29 ounces 4.2 ounces 0.6 lb 4.48 ounces 0.51 lb
Size Adult One Size Metal/Resin Composite Chestpiece Adult One Size Adult

 

 

Welch Allyn stethoscopes

One of the oldest stethoscope brands out there. Welch Allyn was started in 1915 and started originally producing medical equipment for eye doctors. Later in an effort to corner a bigger side of the market they branched out and started making top-notch stethoscopes. They are more of a top-line brand which shows in the price-tag. These stethoscopes usually go for between $100 and up to $250.

However they do produce one-time use stethoscopes to run diagnostics on highly infectious patients. These can be thrown away after use as to not risk any further spread of infection. These stethoscopes obviously are not as costly as their regular ones and tend to go for less than $8.

Although Welch Allyn focuses on producing stethoscopes for generalists, their line does include cardiology-grade stethoscopes. Because of this they have received a stable following of users in the medical field due to their catering to generalists. Particularly their Harvey and Elite lines are common due to their dependability and their relatively low price.

 

Vintage stethoscope – Which one is Your favorite?

I’m sure some people reading this article have fond memories of their doctor. However that image isn’t complete without a vintage stethoscope swung around their neck.

Vintage stethoscopes generally stand out from their modern counterparts in design. Depending on how far back you want to go, you can have stethoscopes that have no tubing whatsoever! Others date back from before there was an official bell-type chestpiece.

1870’s style Ford stethoscope

A lot of innovation in the medical field was done in the early Americas of the late 19th century. W.F. Ford had several patents regarding stethoscopes. It was he who helped develop the bi-aural stethoscope that we have come to know today. However a big issue they were facing back then was how to keep the tension right in the tubing. Therefore he came up with a quick fix and added a spring in the middle.

Nowadays Labtron makes stethoscopes in his honor. Although they have forgone the spring system in the middle the bell still hints back to the old-days. See for yourself in the pictures below:

vintage stethoscope, vintage ford style stethocope

They are currently selling on Amazon for less than $20. So if you are on the lookout for a vintage stethoscope in a Ford-style, here’s your chance!

Vintage 1940’s obstetrician’s stethoscope

This particular vintage obstetrician stethoscope, which is also known as a fetal stethoscope, was made over 70 years ago in Ukraine. It is currently stored in a Ukranian military medical warehouse. As it has to come overseas it might take a while before the item reaches you so keep this in mind when you order!

vintage stethoscope, vintage fetal stethoscope, vintage obstetrician's stethoscope

vintage stethoscope, vintage fetal stethoscope, vintage obstetrician's stethoscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the seller this is a unique piece so supply is extremely limited!

Lastly we’ll feature the grandfather of all stethoscopes.

Vintage Sprague Rappaport stethoscope

We’re still in the 1940’s. It was then that Sprague and Rappaport set out to make a better version of the stiff stethoscopes they had grown accustomed to. Together they aid down the golden standard for what was to become the standard stethoscope everyone has come to know and love. Ultimately Hewlett and Packard ended up manufacturing their stethoscopes. They are now in direct competition with 3M who manufactures the Littmann series stethoscopes.

Below is a kit on Amazon I found that sells everything a beginning doctor-to-be needs in his or her kit!
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This set features a vintage stethoscope combined with a Sphygmomanometer, which is a blood pressure gauge and -cuff, and a carrying bag.

Litmann Stethoscope Sale

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Litmann stethoscopes are usually on sale in a variety of places. Which Litmann stethoscope sale is next depends largely on the age of the model under review. Usually the models that are about to become obsolete due to the arrival of a newer model gets put on sale.

Amazon in general offers decent sales from time to time. As a result in the review of the most commonly sold stethoscope models here below, the links in there will take you to their respective Amazon pages.

Unfortunately I cannot say in realtime whether or not the stethoscopes reviewed are on sale. You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Other places than Amazon to look for a Litmann stethoscope sale

However Amazon is not the only marketplace that offers a Litmann stethoscope sale from time to time.

I have personally had really good experiences from stethoscope.com. Usually when you go to their main page they offer a whole list of featured items. Most of the times in this mix are a lot of Littmans.

Secondly Allheart offers good sales from time to time and prisewise they give competitive prices on their Litmann selection. I once asked for a batch offer from them and in that particular case they came out on top pricewise.

If you are looking for a discounted deal then other than Amazon those would be the two other sources I’d start looking. However as mentioned, the links below will take you to Amazon so to make it easy for you I listed some of the features Litmann stethoscopes have.

 

Littmann stethoscopes:

Headset tension is easily adjusted. Simply squeeze together or pull apart the eartubes. Snap-tight, soft-sealing eartips conform to individual ears for an excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit. Eartips snap firmly onto the ends of the eartubes and, for safety, require a significant effort to remove.

Resilient next-generation tubing retains its shape and flexibility even after folding tightly into a pocket. It provides longer stethoscope life due to improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol. Secondly it is less likely to pick up stains. In addition  the next-generation tubing is not made with natural rubber latex. This is  a benefit to sensitive medical professionals and their patients. Lastly to play its part in the protection of human health and the environment, the next-generation tubing does not contain phthalate plasticizers.

3M Litmann Stethoscopes are used by millions of medical professionals around the world who are dedicated to achieving the best patient outcomes. Litmann stethoscopes offer superb acoustic performance, consistently high quality, and outstanding value. Wearing a Litman stethoscope is an expression of your commitment to medicine, and personal success.

 

Check the overview below to see if Amazon is doing a Litmann stethoscope sale.

Overview:

 

Classic III, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Master Classic II, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Cardiology III, Stethoscope, Littmann stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Littmann, Cardiology IV, Cardiology, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Master Cardiology, Cardiology, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies
Classic III Master Classic II Cardiology III Cardiology IV Master Cardiology
Acoustic Performance 8 9 9 9 10
Ideal For Diagnosis and Physical Assessment‎ Diagnosis and Physical Assessment‎ Cardiology/High Performance Cardiology/High Performance Cardiology/High Performance
Warranty 2 Years 3 Years 5 Years 7 Years 7 Years
Chestpiece Design/Material Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Single Sided/Plated and Polished Alloy Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Single Sided/Cast Stainless Steel
Available Color/Finishes 18 Colors/ 4 Finishes 9 Colors/ 2 Finishes 16 Colors/ 6 Finishes 7 Colors/ Stainless Steel Finish 7 Colors/ 3 Finishes
Diaphragm – tunable: hear different frequency sounds without turning over or repositioning Redesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the Chestpiece Tunable Diaphragm Two Tunable Diaphragms Redesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the Chestpiece Tunable Diaphragm
Tube Design Single Lumen Tubing Single Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing
Weight/Length 150 grams, 27″/69cm 160 grams, 27″/69cm 175, 180 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm 167, 177 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm 175, 185 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm
Made in the USA

Stethoscope Allergies: Cause and remedies

stethoscope allergies

Stethoscope allergies are caused by a response by the body’s immune system to certain elements within the stethoscope. Usually an allergy to stethoscopes is caused by the fact that the patient has an acute latex-allergy. Latex, or rubber, is commonly used in the tubing of the stethoscope. It can also appear in the chestpiece. As a result contact with the patient’s body is almost inevitable.

In general though stethoscope allergies can be divided into two sub-cases. Allergies due to latex- or rubber allergy and allergy to metal.

Stethoscope allergies caused by rubber

If you happen to have bad luck and are allergic to latex, while at the same time you were checked out with a stethoscope that featured latex, chances are you developed an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction is also called “Contact Dermatitis“. Any medical term that ends in “-itis” tends to mean inflammation.
You don’t need me to tell you how inflamed the affected body parts will look. Simply judge for yourself by the pictures below.

stethoscope allergiesstethoscope allergies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The picture on the left shows the result of what is called “a scratch test” or “patch test”. This is a common way to find out if you are allergic for a substance. During this test the doctor, probably a dermatologist, applies a variety of allergic agents in small doses to your skin. However he or she keeps track of which agent goes where for future reference. As time goes by, usually a couple of hours, any reactions you may have will become clear.

Due to the fact that the doctor has marked which substance he or she put where it’s easy to see what you are allergic to. What we see in the test is that this particular patient in the upper-left picture has a positive reaction to Thiuram.

Stethoscope allergies caused by rubber usually have 2 main causes. Either people are allergic to the natural saps in latex-rubber. Or then they are allergic to the rubber-accelerators that are commonly added to rubber. Thiuram is one such accelerator.

On the picture in the right we see a man who has an allergic reaction on his upper thigh. Most likely this has been caused by the elastic band in his underwear.

What are rubber accelerators?

Rubber accelerators are chemicals used to speed up the manufacturing process of rubber (vulcanization). This process makes untreated natural rubber latex suitable for use in the manufacture of many rubber products.

Unfortunately most rubber or latex products include rubber accelerators. They range from clothing and outdoor equipment to cosmetic and…you guessed it… healthcare equipment.

Common reactions to rubber accelerators:

Location Cause Features
Hands
  • Rash caused by rubber gloves often distinguished by sharp cut-off at wrist
  • May be worse over pressure areas
  • May be similar to a photodermatitis
  • Thiuram in oral Antabuse may cause swelling of the hands and feet and water blisters on the hands and fingers
Face
  • Cosmetic applicators, e.g. eyeshadow sponge, eyelash curler
  • Latex Swim or safety goggles
  • Rubber headphones
  • Surgical/examination gloves worn by dentist or doctor
  • Rubber pillows
  • Rash occurs mainly on the eyelids where rubber cosmetic sponges have been used.
  • There’s a chance you develop a rash around the mouth or any site of the body where the dentist or doctor’s hands have touched the skin.
Feet / shoe dermatitis
  • Shoes made with rubber, e.g. sneakers, tennis shoes
  • Rubber insoles for shoes
  • Latex or rubber boots
  • Rubber cements used in joining shoe uppers, the outer leather and linings
  • Rubber box toes, the most common cause of shoe dermatitis
  • Rash usually begins on the base of the big toe and gradually extends to the other toes and onto the feet
  • Recurrent eruptions may occur over many years and may be misdiagnosed as psoriasis, eczema or athlete’s foot
  • Can often become disabling without proper diagnosis and treatment
Genitals
  • Condoms
  • Contraceptive diaphragms

 

If you weren’t allergic to rubber before it is highly possible you got allergic due to chronic exposure. Usually people who work in the medical field develop rubber allergies over a certain course of time. It is a little ironic that rubber allergy develops in this way when you are trying to protect yourself from other allergens using special protective wear.

 

Treatment

Of course ideally you would want to avoid any contact with latex if you have a latex allergy. However that is not always in your control and accidents unfortunately do happen. As a result it is important to be aware of the possible treatments if you develop dermatitis.

A home-made solution could be to treat the affected are with diluted vinegar. However a far better solution is to go see a dermatologist. They will subscribe you some topical corticosteroids. A short course of these will speed up the healing dramatically. This in combination with antihistamines should have you up and running in no-time!

 

Allergies caused by metals

Copper stethoscope allergies

Although copper is quite abundant nowadays, people do still develop contact dermatitis after contact with copper or copper alloys. The allergic reactions that occur are similar to the ones that manifest itself in people with a latex allergy.

The immune system overreacts to a substance that the body mistakenly perceives as harmful. White blood cells produce antibodies, which enter the bloodstream and attach to cells. This prompts the release of histamines that cause allergic symptoms such as skin rash, diarrhea, nausea, muscle pain, fatigue and hair loss.

As a result stethoscopes that have copper or copper alloys in them should be avoided in an effort to decrease any possible allergic reactions in your patients.

Nickel allergies

Another common culprit of contact dermatitis is nickel. The same guidelines for the above mentioned allergens apply to nickel. Avoid at all cost for the sake of your patients and yourself.

However should one of your patients develop contact dermatitis, then a round of topical corticosteriods combined with antihistamines should do the trick!

 

Non-allergenic stethoscopes

Obviously to reduce the chance of an stethoscope allergies you need to avoid the allergenic agent completely. Below is a quick overview of stethoscopes that do not feature any allergenic agent discussed above.

Littmann stethoscopes have become the standard stethoscope in the country. This is due to their superious acoustics as well as their use on non-allergenic materials. None of the Littmann stethoscopes have any latex components or phtalate plasticizers in the tubing. As a result you can be safe these stethoscopes will not cause any allergic reactions in your patients.

Below is a table in which the most common stethoscope models are ranked next to each other. The links will take you to Amazon where you can study them further.

Overview:

 

Classic III, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Master Classic II, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Cardiology III, Stethoscope, Littmann stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Littmann, Cardiology IV, Cardiology, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies Master Cardiology, Cardiology, Littmann, Stethoscope, stethoscope allergies
Classic III Master Classic II Cardiology III Cardiology IV Master Cardiology
Acoustic Performance 8 9 9 9 10
Ideal For Diagnosis and Physical Assessment‎ Diagnosis and Physical Assessment‎ Cardiology/High Performance Cardiology/High Performance Cardiology/High Performance
Warranty 2 Years 3 Years 5 Years 7 Years 7 Years
Chestpiece Design/Material Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Single Sided/Plated and Polished Alloy Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Double Sided/Machined Stainless Steel Single Sided/Cast Stainless Steel
Available Color/Finishes 18 Colors/ 4 Finishes 9 Colors/ 2 Finishes 16 Colors/ 6 Finishes 7 Colors/ Stainless Steel Finish 7 Colors/ 3 Finishes
Diaphragm – tunable: hear different frequency sounds without turning over or repositioning Redesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the Chestpiece Tunable Diaphragm Two Tunable Diaphragms Redesigned Single-piece Tunable Diaphragm on each side of the Chestpiece Tunable Diaphragm
Tube Design Single Lumen Tubing Single Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing Dual Lumen Tubing
Weight/Length 150 grams, 27″/69cm 160 grams, 27″/69cm 175, 180 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm 167, 177 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm 175, 185 grams Available in 22” / 56cm and 27” / 69cm
Made in the USA