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Heart sounds

Alternative names

Chest sounds - murmurs; Heart sounds - abnormal


Murmurs are blowing, whooshing, or rasping sounds produced by turbulent blood flow through
the heart valves or near the heart.


A doctor can evaluate heart sounds by listening with a stethoscope. They can be further
evaluated with an echocardiogram to see what the exact cause of the murmur is.

The heart has four chambers -- two upper chambers (called atria) and two lower chambers
(ventricles). The heart has valves that temporarily close to permit blood flow in only one direction.
The valves are located between the atria and ventricles, and between the ventricles and the
major vessels from the heart.

Normal heart sounds are called S1 and S2. They are the "lubb-dupp" sounds that are thought of
as the heartbeat. These sounds are produced when the heart valves close.

Because the heart is also divided into a "right side" and a "left side," sometimes these sounds
may be somewhat divided -- most commonly noted is a "split S2," caused when the right and left
ventricles relax, and valves close at very slightly different times. This is normal, but occasionally
the nature of the split can indicate an abnormality such as enlargement of one of the ventricles.

Murmurs can happen when a valve does not close tightly (such as with mitral regurgitation -- the
backflow of blood through the mitral valve), or when the blood is flowing through a narrowed
opening or a stiff valve (such as with aortic stenosis ).

A murmur does not necessarily indicate a disease or disorder, and not all heart disorders cause
murmurs. Murmurs are classified ("graded") depending on their ability to be heard by the
examiner. The grading is on a scale with grade I being barely detectable. An example of a
murmur description is a "grade II/VI murmur." (This means the murmur is grade 2 on a scale of 1
to 6).

In addition, a murmur is described by the stage of the heartbeat when the murmur is heard. The
following are important clues to the cause of the murmur:

• Does the murmur occur in the resting stage (diastole) or contracting stage (systole)?
• Does it occur early or late in the stage?
• Does it occur throughout the heartbeat?

For example, a presystolic murmur is heard just BEFORE systole and is usually caused by
narrowing of the mitral or tricuspid valve (the valves between the atria and the ventricles).

The location where the health care provider hears the murmur loudest is also often noted.
Common Causes

significant murmurs can be caused by:

• mitral regurgitation - chronic

• mitral regurgitation - acute
• mitral stenosis
• aortic regurgitation
• aortic stenosis
• tricuspid stenosis
• tricuspid regurgitation
• pulmonary stenosis
• pulmonary regurgitation (backflow of blood into the right ventricle, caused by failure of the
the pulmonary valve to close completely)

Significant murmurs in children are more likely to be caused by:

• patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

• atrial septal defect (ASD)
• ventricular septal defect (VSD)
• coarctation of the aorta
• anomalous pulmonary venous return (an abnormal formation of the pulmonary veins)

Children often have murmurs that are a normal part of development and do not require treatment.
These murmurs include:

• Still's murmur
• venous hum
• pulmonary flow murmurs

Call your health care provider if

This finding is usually detected during examination by a health care provider.

Diagnostic testing to determine the cause of a "new" murmur or other abnormal heart sound may

• chest x-ray
• echocardiography