Front Page Story In De Telegraaf A Major Publication From The Netherlands

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De Telegraaf publication

A two page article about heart valve disease has been featured in a major publication in the Netherlands in the lead up to the European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day. The article discusses their new Heart Valve Disease game that is being released for primary care professionals and the importance of stethoscope use across the country. The feature also includes a patient story about Ans Spronk, whose life was saved when her heart valve disease was detected by a stethoscope examination. Here is a full summary of the article:


Doctor has to learn to listen again


The heart is the motor of our body, however doctors hardly listen with a stethoscope when symptoms like breathlessness occur. Today a heartvalve game is introduced to enable doctors to train their basic skills with the stethoscope. “We should listen more often with the stethoscope to hearts, since this is the way to detect serious and life threatening heart valve diseases”, says Dr. Renée van den Brink (Amsterdam AMC).




Heart Valve Game for doctors reinstates underestimated medical instrument
Trained ear can save lives.

The stethoscope should be reinstated. Important diseases, especially heart valve diseases are not diagnosed in time because this instrument is no longer used. A specially for doctors designed serious game, accredited by professional organization of gp’s, refreshes the skills of first line practitioners. Listening well saves lives. “Learning to listen well can save livers”, says cardiologist and developer dr. Renée van den Brink.


Inventor of the stethoscope was also named René, who used to listen with the ear to men’s hearts but with a tube to women’s hearts. For hunderds of years this instrument was used, but the last decade doctors turn to echo and other – expensive – imaging techniques for their diagnosis, says Van den Brink. “The doctor no longer uses his own hands, and fully depends on other people’s interpretations, who never saw the patient” Van den Brink admits she also did this and valued echo’s, however she experienced how important it is to listen to the patient’s medical complaints and history first, anamnesis, followed by physical examination, including auscultation. Only then the doctor knows what tests should be asked for in the hospital.


European research showed that only in 1 out of 10 doctor’s visits patients are auscultated in The Netherlands, whereas in France this is 69%. Van den Brink emphasizes: “Listening with all your senses is so important. It is cool to have an I-phone stethoscope, but it does not tell you anything about other relevant symptoms and you cannot look through the chest.” New awareness survey results are being revealed early September at a National Heart Valve Disease Awareness symposium.


The medical world supports the heart valve game, since it is accredited as a serious learning game. “Serous learning via games is important”. We used to test students with sounds, but now we can do this with virtual patients and sounds on the PC/mobile devices. You need to practice in order to learn the heart sounds, but it is not rocket science. You can then learn to distinguish between aortic stenosis, insufficiency, mitral valve leakage or any other heart valve disease”.


In my practice I cannot understand that some patients are being referred without ever being listened to with the stethoscope, says Van den Brink.


Ans Spronk’s life saved by the stethoscope
Doctor immediately asked for an echo


Heart only pumped for 30%

The stethoscope saved Ans’ life. I was already a heart patient and had a new heart valve. However, in 2017 I had symptoms of heart failure, pain in my jaws, very short of breath and tired. The cardiologist made an echo, a transcatheter examination followed to check the arteries. Nothing was found. I received medication to open my arteries. My sister kept telling me I should go for a second opinion.


In January I visited dr. Janneke Wittekoek for a second opinion, also a developer of the heart valve game. One of the first things she did was listen with the stethoscope and she discovered a heart murmur. My heart only worked for 30%. The same day I ended up in hospital and had to go through another heart operation for a new heart valve. Now I can cycle and walk again. Listening with the stethoscope saved my life. But if this was done earlier, it would have saved me a very heavy, difficult year.”