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Rales vs. Rhonchi: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Published on February 1, 2024
Rales are fine, crackling sounds heard in the lungs during inhalation, while rhonchi are low-pitched, snore-like sounds heard primarily during exhalation.

Key Differences

Rales, also known as crackles, are abnormal lung sounds characterized by fine, short, high-pitched sounds heard during the end of inhalation. Rhonchi, in contrast, are low-pitched, rattling sounds that resemble snoring, occurring when air flows through narrowed airways.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024
Rales are often associated with fluid accumulation in the air spaces of the lungs, typical in conditions like pneumonia or heart failure. Rhonchi suggest the presence of obstructions in the larger airways, often seen in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024
The sound of rales is likened to the crinkling of cellophane or the opening of a Velcro fastener, indicating finer airway involvement. Rhonchi, due to their lower pitch, often indicate more substantial obstructions and are audible in conditions with thicker mucus, like bronchiectasis.
Huma Saeed
Feb 01, 2024
Rales are more common during inhalation, they can sometimes be heard during both inhalation and exhalation. Rhonchi, predominantly heard during exhalation, can change or disappear with coughing, as the airways may clear.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024
The presence of rales can signify a range of pulmonary conditions, necessitating further medical evaluation. Rhonchi, especially when persistent, suggest chronic airway diseases and also warrant further medical investigation.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Sound Quality

Fine, crackling
Low-pitched, snoring
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Typical Timing

During inhalation
During exhalation
Huma Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Associated Conditions

Pneumonia, heart failure
COPD, bronchitis
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Sound Description

Similar to cellophane crinkling
Resembles snoring or rattling
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Changes with Coughing

Usually constant
May clear or change
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024
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Rales and Rhonchi Definitions

Rales

Rales are fine crackling sounds in the lungs.
The doctor detected rales in her lungs, indicating possible pneumonia.
Harlon Moss
Jan 11, 2024

Rhonchi

Rhonchi resemble snore-like sounds.
The doctor noted rhonchi, indicating mucus in the airways.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rales

Rales indicate abnormal lung auscultation.
The intern heard rales, a sign of acute respiratory distress.
Harlon Moss
Jan 11, 2024

Rhonchi

Rhonchi indicate airflow obstruction.
The persistent rhonchi pointed towards chronic bronchitis.
Huma Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rales

Rales are heard at the end of inhalation.
During the exam, rales were audible, hinting at a lung infection.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rhonchi

Rhonchi are heard primarily during exhalation.
On exhalation, the presence of rhonchi was a concern for COPD.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 11, 2024

Rales

Rales signify fluid in the air spaces.
Listening carefully, the physician noted rales, suspecting heart failure.
Harlon Moss
Jan 11, 2024

Rhonchi

Rhonchi are low-pitched, rattling lung sounds.
Rhonchi in his breathing suggested a bronchial obstruction.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rales

Rales are high-pitched respiratory sounds.
The presence of rales alerted the nurse to potential pulmonary edema.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rhonchi

Rhonchi often clear with coughing.
After coughing, the patient's rhonchi significantly reduced.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 11, 2024

Rales

An abnormal respiratory sound characterized by fine crackles.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 10, 2024

Rhonchi

A coarse rattling sound somewhat like snoring, usually caused by secretion in a bronchial tube.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 10, 2024

Rales

Plural of rale
Sumera Saeed
Jan 10, 2024

Rhonchi

Plural of rhonchus
Sumera Saeed
Jan 10, 2024

Rales

(medicine) Abnormal clicking, rattling or crackling sound heard from the lungs, often audible only with a stethoscope.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 10, 2024

FAQs

Can rales indicate serious illness?

Yes, they can signal conditions like pneumonia.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Do rales sound different from wheezes?

Yes, rales are crackling, while wheezes are high-pitched.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

What are rhonchi?

Low-pitched, snore-like lung sounds.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Do rhonchi change with coughing?

They often do, indicating mucus movement.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024

What are rales?

Fine, crackling sounds in the lungs.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Are rales heard in both lungs?

They can be, depending on the underlying condition.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Are rhonchi a concern in children?

They can be, especially if persistent.
Janet White
Feb 01, 2024

What causes rales?

Fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Huma Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

What causes rhonchi?

Obstructions in the larger airways.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Can rhonchi be a sign of asthma?

They can, particularly during exacerbations.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Can rhonchi be a sign of COPD?

Yes, they're common in COPD patients.
Janet White
Feb 01, 2024

Can rales be treated?

Treatment targets the underlying cause.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Can rales disappear on their own?

They may if the underlying condition improves.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

How are rhonchi diagnosed?

Through chest auscultation by a healthcare professional.
Janet White
Feb 01, 2024

Can rhonchi indicate infection?

Yes, especially respiratory infections.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024

Do rales occur in heart failure?

Yes, due to fluid buildup in the lungs.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 01, 2024

Are rhonchi and wheezes the same?

No, rhonchi are lower-pitched than wheezes.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Do rhonchi require medical attention?

Yes, to address the underlying cause.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

Are rales common in smokers?

They can be, especially with accompanying lung disease.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 01, 2024

How are rales diagnosed?

Primarily through stethoscope auscultation.
Harlon Moss
Feb 01, 2024
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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