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🚑 Differentiating adventitious lung sounds 🏥

By Amber Gochoel, @sparklyscrubs

#TeamUrbane member, Amber (@sparklyscrubs), recently published a post about how to differentiate adventitious lung sounds. Read her tips and information about the different lung sounds below or on her Instagram.

Follow her on Instagram for more tips and to follow her journey starting her nursing residency and becoming a NICU nurse.


This is definitely one you’ll want to save for your nursing school exams and NCLEX!!

Generally speaking, we all know what normal lung sounds should sound like, but it can be difficult at first to tell the difference between all the types of abnormal ones.

Wheezing is one of the most common you will see. This one sounds like a high pitched noise that occurs on inspiration and/or expiration bilaterally. It is caused by air flowing through constricted airways.

Crackles are another common sound you may hear during clinical rotations. These patients generally have some form of fluid overload, whether it’s from CHF, too many IV fluids, etc. These can either sound like popping or gurgling noises during inspiration. As you move down the patient’s back/abdomen they may transition from sounding dry to wet.

Rhonchi occurs when air moves over thick secretions. It makes a continuous noise. It can sound a bit like crackles but can disappear if the patient coughs.

Lastly, friction rubs are probably my least favorite to listen to. 😬 You’ll heat these during both inspiration and expiration and it sounds like a dry, rubbing sound. It’s caused by a loss of pleural fluid or inflammation.

Once you hear an example of each of these in real life, you’ll find it much easier to differentiate them later! I got lucky in my med surg one rotation and had patients with all sorts of lung sounds! I’m so grateful they were patient with me as I assessed them and confirmed the findings with my preceptor. I wish there was a way I could thank all of the patients that have helped me learn along the way!

A version of this blog first appeared on Amber's Instagram, @sparklyscrubs. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author. Information was sourced from Focus on Adult Health Med Surgical Nursing by Linda Honan.

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