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Breath sounds

Lung sounds; Breathing sounds

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

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Lungs
Breath sounds

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Considerations

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

Normal breath 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 4 most common are:

Causes

Causes of abnormal breath sounds may include:

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

Questions may include:

In most cases, abnormal breath sounds are discovered when a health care provider examines your chest and lungs. You may not even notice them.

The following tests may be done:

Related Information

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Chest and lungs. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Siedel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 14.

Fajardo E, Davis JL. History and physical examination. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 18.

Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.

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Review Date: 4/17/2021  

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, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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