Murmurs and Other Sounds

As blood passes through the valves on its way through the heart, characteristic sounds take place. Doctors use a stethoscope to listen for those sounds.

The location, intensity, duration, and quality of the sounds offer clues about the heart's health. Each snap, click, and whoosh is an indicator of health or disease. An abnormal sound is called a murmur.

"Most valvular heart disease patients don't have symptoms. The first sign of a problem is when their doctor hears a murmur," explains Paul Stelzer, MD, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Murmurs generally indicate the need for further testing.

In children, some murmurs are deemed "innocent." If murmurs take place alongside other problems, such difficulty breathing or feeding, or poor skin color, the child will need further evaluation.

Murmurs are classified on a scale of 1 to 6, from softest to loudest. Doctors will often gather more information by asking patients to change position or perform other physical maneuvers, which affects the sounds.

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