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Breath sounds

Definition

Breath sounds are the noises produced by the structures of the lungs during breathing.

Alternative Names

Lung sounds; Breathing sounds

Considerations

The lung sounds are best heard with a stethoscope. This is called auscultation.

Normal lung sounds occur in all parts of the chest area, including above the collarbones and at the bottom of the rib cage.

Using a stethoscope, the doctor may hear normal breathing sounds, decreased or absent breath sounds, and abnormal breath sounds.

Absent or decreased sounds can mean:

There are several types of abnormal breath sounds. The four most common are:

Causes

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek immediate medical care if you have:

Contact your health care provider if you have wheezing or other abnormal breathing sounds.

Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history and your breathing.

Questions may include:

The health care provider usually discovers abnormal breath sounds. You may not even notice them.

The following tests may be done:

References

Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 83.


Review Date: 5/13/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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