Review of the history of auscultation of the lung reveals few scientific investigations. The majority of these have led to inconclusive results. The mechanism of production of normal breath sounds remains uncertain. Hypotheses for the generation of adventitious sounds are unproven. Advances in instrumentation for lung sound recording and analysis have provided little of clinical value. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in lung sounds. Space-age technology has improved methodology for sonic analysis significantly. Lung sounds are complex signals that probably reflect regional lung pathophysiology. If they were understood more clearly important non-invasive diagnostic tools could be devised and the value of clinical auscultation could be improved. A multidisciplinary effort will be required to achieve this.
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