VS: Breath sounds / Lung sounds
What is it? The sound of the movement of air in and out of your lungs
Acceptable result: “Clear” breath sounds - a soft, but audible airflow, like a gentle breeze.
“Adventitious” lung sounds are sounds we don’t want to hear - sounds that may indicate obstruction or other problems in the lungs. A few of these are:
Wheezes – High-pitched whistling or squeaky sounds. Can be caused by air flowing through a narrowed, or squeezed, bronchial airway.
Rales – A crackling sound similar to pulling Velcro apart or crushing dry breakfast cereal. Can indicate fluid build-up as in congestive heart failure or other fluid such as from a lung infection. Crackles are commonly heard in people with pulmonary fibrosis, even when they’re stable and feeling well. Crackling sounds may be “normal for them.”
Rhonchi – A distorted airflow sound, akin to a snore or a lower-pitched wheeze, possibly indicating excess mucous in the large or small airways.
I hope this lesson in vital signs helps you have a better understanding of what’s going on with your health. And the next time I check Bill’s vital signs and say something like, “You have an oxygen saturation of 95 percent with a heart rate of 72. Your blood pressure is 110/70 and your breath sounds are clear,” I hope he looks up and smiles, and with confidence says, “That’s good!”
Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher and the founder and director of http://www.Breathingbetterlivingwell.com and author of Breathe Better, Live in Wellness and Live Your Life With COPD, scheduled for release Spring, 2011.