Your Heart & Conditions > Heart Murmurs
- What is it?
Whether or not
you've felt symptoms, your doctor has probably heard your heart make a
sound called a murmur. A murmur is usually present when you have a heart
valve problem. To find out what kind of valve problem you have, your doctor
may have ordered various tests, including an echocardiogram, an
electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray, or cardiac catheterization. You may have
taken medications to help treat your valve problem. If you have been
referred to us, your doctor is recommending heart valve surgery. During this
surgery, problem heart valves will either be repaired or replaced.
Your heart is a
pumping muscle that works nonstop to keep your body supplied with oxygen
rich blood. Four heart valves act like one-way doors to keep blood moving in
one direction through the heart. Problems with one or more valves may mean
that the heart has to work harder to get blood out to the body.
Heart Valves Work
The heart is
divided into four chambers. The upper chambers are called atria and the
lower chambers are called ventricles. The heart muscle squeezes blood from
chamber to chamber. At each squeeze, the valves open to let blood through to
the next chamber. 'Then the valves close to stop blood from moving backward.
In this way, the valves keep blood moving as efficiently as possible through
the heart and out to the body.
occurs when a valve doesn't work the way it should. If a valve doesn't open
all the way, less blood can move through the smaller opening. If a valve
doesn't close tightly, blood may leak backward. These problems may mean the
heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. Or blood may back
up in the lungs or body because it's not moving efficiently through the
Problems Opening: Stenosis occurs when a valve doesn't open completely.
The valve may have become hardened or stiff with calcium deposits or
scarring, so it's hard to push open. Blood has to flow through a smaller
opening, so less blood gets through the valve into the next chamber.
Insufficiency (also called regurgitation) results when the valve doesn't
close tightly. The valve's supportive structures may be loose or torn. Or
the valve itself may have stretched or thinned. Blood then may leak back in
the wrong direction through the valve.
Heart Murmur Sounds
on the music note Icons below to hear four of the most common heart valve
murmurs. You must have the Basic RealPlayer plug-in to play these audio
files. If you have trouble opening the file you can download a free
RealPlayer!" upgrade by clicking on the icon.
murmur sounds to a normal heart:
Causes Valve Disease?
can have several causes. You may be born with a problem valve. Rheumatic
fever or a bacterial infection can damage heart valves. Coronary artery
disease (blocked blood vessels in the heart) can sometimes cause heart valve
problems. Or your valves may simply wear out as you grow older.