Heart Murmur and Valve Clinic

Heart Murmur and Valve Program

A heart murmur isn't a disease, and most murmurs are harmless.

Heart Valve Conditions We Treat

Expand All Collapse All

Heart Murmurs

A Heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound heard during a heartbeat. Murmurs range from very faint to very loud. Sometimes they sound like a whooshing or swishing noise. Normal heartbeats make a "lub-DUPP" or "lub-DUB" sound. This is the sound of the heart valves closing as blood moves through the heart. Doctors can hear these sounds and heart murmurs using a stethoscope.

The two types of heart murmurs are innocent (harmless) and abnormal.

Innocence Heart Murmurs

Innocent heart murmurs aren't caused by heart problems. A person with an innocent murmur has a normal heart. Innocent Heart Murmurs are common in healthy children and newborns. More than half of all children have heart murmurs at some time, and most of those murmurs are harmless.

Abnormal Heart Murmurs

People who have abnormal heart murmurs may have signs or symptoms of heart problems.  The most common cause of abnormal murmurs in children is congenital heart disease — when babies are born with structural heart defects. Common congenital defects that cause heart murmurs include:

  • Holes in the heart or cardiac shunts. Many heart murmurs in children are the result of holes in the walls between heart chambers, known as septal defects. These may or may not be serious, depending on the size of the hole and its location. Shunts occur when there's an abnormal blood flow between the heart chambers or blood vessels, leading to a heart murmur.
  • Heart valve abnormalities. Congenital heart valve abnormalities are present at birth, but sometimes aren't discovered until much later in life. Examples include valves that don't allow enough blood through them (stenosis) or those that don't close properly and leak (regurgitation).

Other causes of abnormal heart murmurs include infections and conditions that damage the structures of the heart and are more common in older children or adults. For example:

  • Rheumatic fever. Although rare in the United States, rheumatic fever is a serious condition that can occur when you don't receive prompt or complete treatment for a strep throat infection. In many cases, rheumatic fever may permanently affect the heart valves and interfere with normal blood flow through your heart.
  • Endocarditis. This is an infection and inflammation of the inner lining of your heart and valves. Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and lodge in your heart. Left untreated, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves. This condition usually occurs in people who already have heart abnormalities.
  • Valve calcification. This hardening or thickening of valves, called mitral or aortic valve stenosis, can occur as you age. These valves may not work as well as they once did, making it harder for blood to flow through your heart, resulting in murmurs.
  • Mitral valve prolapse. In this condition, the valve between your heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly. When the left ventricle contracts, the valve's leaflets bulge (prolapse) upward or back into the atrium, which may cause a murmur.
  • Mitral valve prolapse. In this condition, the valve between your heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly. When the left ventricle contracts, the valve's leaflets bulge (prolapse) upward or back into the atrium, which may cause a murmur.

In adults, abnormal heart murmurs most often are caused by acquired heart valve disease. As the heart pumps, blood flow is regulated by valves on either side of the pumping chambers. Valves regulate flow into and out of the ventricle. Since the left ventricle provides blood to the body, most valve problems are related to either the mitral valve or the aortic valve. Either of these valves can fail to open properly, termed stenosis, or can leak after closing, termed regurgitation. The most common problem is aortic stenosis. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve fails to open properly, thus obstructing blood flow out of the heart.

Aortic Stenosis

Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness,
  • Fatigue,
  • Heart failure

Sudden death can result from this obstruction. The only effective treatment for aortic stenosis is replacement of the aortic valve.

Valve Disease

Some people are born with heart valve disease, while others acquire it later in life. Heart valve disease that develops before birth is called congenital (kon-JEN-ih-tal) heart valve disease. Congenital heart valve disease can occur alone or with other congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart valve disease often involves pulmonary or aortic valves that don't form properly. These valves may not have enough tissue flaps, they may be the wrong size or shape, or they may lack an opening through which blood can flow properly. This can make your heart work harder and affect its ability to pump blood.

Acquired heart valve disease usually involves aortic or mitral valves. Although the valves are normal at first, problems develop over time.

Both congenital and acquired heart valve disease can cause stenosis or backflow

Detection

Many people have heart valve defects or disease but don't have symptoms. For some people, the condition mostly stays the same throughout their lives and doesn't cause any problems.

For other people, heart valve disease slowly worsens until symptoms develop. If not treated, advanced heart valve disease can cause heart failure, stroke, blood clots, or death due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

Currently, no medicines can cure heart valve disease. However, lifestyle changes and medicines can relieve many of its symptoms and complications.

Treatment can lower your risk of developing a life-threatening condition, such as stroke or SCA. However eventually, you may need to have your heart valve repaired or replaced.

Collapse All

Common Names for Heart Valve Disease

  • Aortic regurgitation
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Aortic sclerosis
  • Aortic valve disease
  • Bicuspid aortic valve
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Congenital valve disease
  • Mitral regurgitation
  • Mitral stenosis
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Pulmonic regurgitation
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Pulmonic valve disease
  • Tricuspid regurgitation
  • Tricuspid stenosis
  • Tricuspid valve disease