The key difference between rhonchi and crackles is that rhonchi are low-pitched sounds very similar to sonorous wheezing, while crackles are low-pitched or high-pitched sounds very similar to clicking, rattling, or crackling noises.
The lung sounds, also referred to as respiratory sounds, are the noises produced within the airways during the act of breathing. Healthcare providers use a stethoscope to listen to these ie sounds. In the absence of any respiratory issues, the sounds associated with clear and unobstructed breathing are typically smooth and soft. However, various diseases can result in abnormal lung sounds, including conditions such as rhonchi, crackles, and others.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Rhonchi
3. What are Crackles
4. Similarities – Rhonchi and Crackles
5. Rhonchi vs. Crackles in Tabular Form
6. FAQ – Rhonchi and Crackles
7. Summary – Rhonchi vs. Crackles
What is Rhonchi?
Rhonchi are also known as sonorous wheezes. It is characterized by low-pitched continuous breathing sounds that resemble snoring or gurgling, which are best heard in the expiration phase of breathing. Rhonchi usually occur due to secretions or obstruction in the larger airways that are associated with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, or cystic fibrosis.
Rhonchi can be diagnosed through physical examination, chest X-ray, sputum cultures, pulmonary function test, bronchoscopy, and heart studies. Furthermore, administration of oxygen, nasopharyngeal suctioning, increased intravenous fluid administration, exercise, percussion, using inhaled medications, including bronchodilators such as Albuterol, Ventolin, or Proventil, and managing the underlying conditions.
What are Crackles?
Crackles are also known as rales. They are a series of short explosive sounds. These sounds are more likely to occur when individuals breathe in, but they can also manifest when breathing out. There are two types of crackles. They are fine and coarse. Fine crackles are shorter and higher in pitch, whereas coarse crackles are lower in pitch. Crackles can be caused by pneumonia, heart disease, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, COPD, lung infections like bronchitis, asbestosis, and pericarditis.
Crackles can be diagnosed through bronchophony, whispered pectoriloquy, and egophony. Furthermore, treatment options for crackles may include managing underlying conditions such as antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis, antiviral medications for viral lung infections, diuretics for heart conditions, and prescribed steroids to decrease inflammation in the lungs.
What are the Similarities Between Rhonchi and Crackles?
- Rhonchi and crackles are two different abnormal lung sounds.
- A stethoscope can hear both abnormal sounds.
- They can be diagnosed through physical evaluation.
- They can be treated by managing the underlying causes.
What is the Difference Between Rhonchi and Crackles?
Rhonchi are low-pitched sounds very similar to sonorous wheezing, while crackles are low-pitched or high-pitched sounds very similar to clicking, rattling, or crackling noises. This is the key difference between rhonchi and crackles. Furthermore, rhonchi are continuous in nature, while crackles seem to have no rhythm and coincide with the breathing rate.
The infographic below presents the differences between rhonchi and crackles in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
FAQ: Rhonchi and Crackles
What are the 4 types of breath sounds?
Rales, rhonchi, stridor, and wheezing are four types of breath sounds.
What’s the difference between rhonchi and rales?
Rhonchi and rales differ by the pitch and the exact cause of the sound.
What causes crackles?
Crackles occur when the small air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid, and there’s air movement in the sacs, such as when you’re breathing.
Summary – Rhonchi vs. Crackles
Lung sounds or breathing sounds are the noises produced by the structures of the lungs during breathing. There are four most common abnormal lung sounds such as rhonchi, crackles, stridor, and wheezing. Therefore, rhonchi and crackles are two different abnormal lung sounds. However, rhonchi are abnormal lung sounds that resemble snoring, while crackles are abnormal lung sounds that resemble small clicking, bubbling, or rattling noises. So, this summarizes the difference between rhonchi and crackles.
1. Kim Y; Hyon Y; Jung SS; Lee S; Yoo G; Chung C; Ha T; “Respiratory Sound Classification for Crackles, Wheezes, and Rhonchi in the Clinical Field Using Deep Learning.” Scientific Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
2. “All about Abnormal Breath Sounds.” Lippincott NursingCenter.
1. “Doctor Checking the Back of a Patient” (CC0) via Pexels