Remember your last doctor’s visit when he came at you with a stethoscope and proceeded to put that cold device against your chest? And then said……”take a deep breath and hold it”? And you did, until you were about to pass out? That my friends was your doc “auscultating” (listening) to your breath or lung sounds for signs of abnormality which can be used to assist in diagnosing medical problems. The clinical definition of auscultation is “the act of listening to sounds generated within the body for the purpose of diagnosis of disease”. While ST, OT and PT do not use this examination assessment frequently in daily practice and certainly do not diagnose disease, it can be beneficial in determining reportable problems to nursing staff such as decreased lung sounds for residents with potential for aspiration, exacerbation of COPD and other pulmonary types of disease that impede the therapeutic process. When we treat these residents it is important to recognize airway distress during therapeutic activities and exercise so that we can make the appropriate adjustments during the treatment sessions as well as to report significant distress to nursing staff. Therapists must recognize when it is essential to stop a treatment in such a situation. Clinical judgment has not gone away and therapists must continue to make daily decisions that can have great impact with the residents being treated.

For further information, please refer to the Functional Pathways Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Pathways to Better Breathing Program.
Cherie Rowell, COTA/L
Director of Clinical Services
Functional Pathways