Heart Murmurs & Heart Valve Disease
A heart murmur is a sound, usually first noticed by a doctor during a routine exam, that might be an indication of something wrong with your heart valve. The valve might be narrowed or it might be leaking blood backward.
The sound of blood flowing in an abnormal, chaotic way should be evaluated by a medical professional. Using a stethoscope, the sounds have been described as "whooshing" or "blowing".
To help you better understand heart murmurs and heart valve disease, I filmed this educational video with Dr. Junaid Khan, a leading heart surgeon from Alta Bates Medical Center in Oakland, California.
How Are Heart Murmurs Categorized?
The classification and grading of heat murmurs can be quite involved. Doctors group heart murmurs by seven major characteristics including its shape, its location, where the sound radiates to, how intense the loudness of the sound is, the murmur’s pitch and its quality. The intensity of a murmur’s loudness is graded from one to six and can range from barely audible to a loud sound that can be heard even without a stethoscope.
The classifications of heart murmurs might not necessarily indicate how severe the disease is, but can help the doctor determine what kind of disease is causing the murmur.
What Does A Heart Murmur Sound Like?
The sounds of heart murmurs can be changed when the person inhales, when they squat or stand up quickly, and when they're laying down on their sides. The murmur can also shift when a person pinches off their nose while trying to blow air out of their lungs, which is called the Valsalva maneuver. The sounds of a heart murmur can also be altered when the person takes certain drugs.
Heart murmurs occur during the diastole, or the resting stage of the heart beat, or the systole, or contracting stage of the heart beat. They might come early or late in the heartbeat or continue all through it. All of these attributes are important in helping the doctor diagnose the murmur, which will then help them in figuring out what sort of treatment is best for the patient.
What Does It Mean To Have A Heart Murmur?
Some heart murmurs are benign, which means they cause no damage. These benign heart murmurs are often seen in children and they disappear as the child matures. Other murmurs are not benign and must be treated by a medical professional. A severely defective valve that causes a heart murmur can impact the heart and all systems of the body. So you know, people with heart murmurs can experience hypotension and fainting.
For example, aortic regurgitation is a form of heart valve disease than may be discovered through a certain kind of heart murmur. Untreated, aortic insufficiency can lead to an enlarged hear, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain. People with severe heart murmurs can even develop maladies that seem to have nothing to do with their heart. Patients might develop an ailment known as Heyde’s syndrome which affects the large intestine and results in the person passing tarry or bloody stool.
Surgery is not always necessary to treat heart murmurs, but the patient should still be under a doctor’s care if a murmur has been detected -- as it may be a preliminary indicator of severe heart valve disease.
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Ready to learn more about heart murmurs and heart valve disease? Here's additional information that might help you:
- How are Echocardiograms Used to Diagnose Heart Valve Disease?
- What is a Leaky Heart Valve?
- What is Aortic Stenosis?
- What is Mitral Regurgitation?
- Explore the Heart Valve Learning Center
- Find Patient-Recommended Heart Valve Surgeons
- Free eBooks: Download 7 Heart Valve eBooks Here!
Page last updated: January 6, 2019