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Every Breath You Take

Evaluating resident breath sounds

By Pam West

Remember the lyrics to "Every Breath You Take" by The Police - "Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you"? Think of how nice it would be if we could assess breath sounds just by watching our residents! Instead, we depend upon auscultation.

Auscultation is listening to the sounds arising within organs and using those sounds as an aid in diagnosing and treating residents. As caregivers, it's essential to have a good auscultation technique for the heart and lungs.

During auscultation, three simple questions need to be answered:

  1. Is the intensity of breath sounds increased, normal or decreased?
  2. Is the character of breath sounds normal or abnormal?
  3. Are there any abnormal or adventitious sounds?
Let's go step by step through the proper auscultation technique.

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