Heart murmurs, also known as chest sounds, are blowing, whooshing, or rasping sounds produced by turbulent blood flow through the heart valves or near the heart.
A doctor can check heart sounds by listening with a stethoscope over the surface of the chest. An echocardiogram may be used to detect the cause of the murmur.
The heart has four chambers: two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The heart has valves that close with each heart beat, causing blood to 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 occur when the heart valves close. Normally, there is no sound when the heart valve opens. In a person with congenital heart disease or heart valve disease, a "click" sound may be heard during a physical exam.
Because the heart is also divided into a "right side" and a "left side," sometimes these sounds may be divided. Most commonly noted is a "split S2." This is caused when the right and left ventricles relax and the valves close at slightly different times. It is normal. But occasionally, the split can be a sign of an abnormality, such as enlargement of one of the ventricles or narrowing of a valve.
Murmurs occur when a valve does not close tightly (such as with mitral regurgitation) and blood leaks backward. They also can occur when the blood flows through a narrowed or stiff valve (such as with aortic stenosis).
A murmur does not necessarily mean that you have 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. Grade I can barely be heard. An example of a murmur description is a "grade II/VI murmur." (This means the murmur is grade 2 on a scale of 1 - 6).
In addition, a murmur is described by the stage of the heartbeat when the murmur is heard. When a murmur is more prominent, the doctor may be able to feel it with the palm of the hand over the heart.
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.