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Heart sounds

    The heart sounds are the noises (sound) generated by the beating heart and the resultant flow of blood through it. This is also called a heartbeat. In cardiac auscultation, an examiner uses a stethoscope to listen for these sounds, which provide important information about the condition of the heart.

In healthy adults, there are two normal heart sounds often described as a lub and a dub (or dup), that occur in sequence with each heart beat. These are the first heart sound (S1) and second heart sound (S2), produced by the closure of the AV valves and semilunar valves respectively. In addition to these normal sounds, a variety of other sounds may be present including heart murmurs and adventitious sounds. Heart murmurs are generated by turbulent flow of blood, which may occur inside or outside the heart. Murmurs may be physiological (benign) or pathological (abnormal). Abnormal murmurs can be caused by stenosis restricting the opening of a heart valve, causing turbulence as blood flows through it. Valve insufficiency (or regurgitation) allows backflow of blood when the incompetent valve is supposed to be closed. Different murmurs are audible in different parts of the cardiac cycle, depending on the cause of the murmur.

Additional recommended knowledge


Normal heart sounds

First heart tone S1, the "lub"(components M1 and T1)

The first heart tone, or S1, is caused by the sudden block of reverse blood flow due to closure of the atrioventricular valves, mitral and tricuspid, at the beginning of ventricular contraction, or systole. When the pressure in the ventricles rises above the pressure in the atria, venous blood flow entering the ventricles is pushed back toward the atria, catching the valve leaflets, closing the inlet valves and preventing regurgitation of blood from the ventricles back into the atria. The S1 sound results from reverberation within the blood associated with the sudden block of flow reversal by the valves. [1]

Second heart tone S2 the "dub"(components A2 and P2)

The second heart tone, or S2, is caused by the sudden block of reversing blood flow due to closure of the aortic valve and pulmonary valve at the end of ventricular systole, i.e beginning of ventricular diastole. As the left ventricle empties, its pressure falls below the pressure in the aorta, aortic blood flow quickly reverses back toward the left ventricle, catching the aortic valve leaflets and is stopped by aortic (outlet) valve closure. Similarly, as the pressure in the right ventricle falls below the pressure in the pulmonary artery, the pulmonary (outlet) valve closes. The S2 sound results from reverberation within the blood associated with the sudden block of flow reversal.

Splitting of the second heart sound

During inspiration, negative intrathoracic pressure causes increased blood return into the right side of the heart, yet some slowing of emptying from the left side. The increased blood volume in the right ventricle causes the pulmonary valve to stay open longer during ventricular systole. This causes an increased delay in the P2 component of S2 relative to the A2 component. During expiration, the positive intrathoracic pressure causes decreased blood return to the right side of the heart. The reduced volume in the right ventricle allows the pulmonary valve to close earlier at the end of ventricular systole, causing P2 to occur earlier, and "closer" to A2. It is physiological to hear a "splitting" of the second heart tone in younger people, during inspiration and in the "pulmonary area", i.e. the 2nd ICS (intercostal space) at the left edge of the sternum. During expiration, the interval between the two components normally shortens and the S2 sounds becomes merged.

If this splitting does not vary with inspiration, it is termed "fixed split S2" and is usually due to an atrial septal defect (ASD) or ventricular septal defect (VSD). The ASD or VSD creates a left to right shunt that increases the blood flow to the right side of the heart, thereby causing the pulmonic valve to close later than the aortic valve independent of inspiration/expiration.

Extra heart sounds

The rarer extra heart sounds are heard in both normal and abnormal situations.

Third heart sound S3

Rarely, there may be a third heart sound S3. The third heart sound or protodiastolic sound is not of valvular origin, as it occurs at the beginning of diastole just after S2. This sound occurs when the left ventricle is unreliable, and at the beginning of diastole the rush of blood into the left ventricle is suddenly halted, resulting in a vibration of the ventricle and surrounding structures.

The third heart sound is normal in children and young adults, but disappears before middle age. Abnormal reemergence of this sound late in life indicates a pathological state, often a sign of a failing left ventricle as in dilated congestive heart failure (CHF). This sound is called a protodiastolic gallop or ventricular gallop, a type of gallop rhythm.

Fourth heart sound S4

The rare fourth heart sound S4 is sometimes audible in healthy children, but when audible in an adult is called a presystolic gallop or atrial gallop. This gallop is a sign of a pathologic state, usually a failing left ventricle. This sound occurs just after atrial contraction ("atrial kick") and is the sound of blood being forced into a stiff/hypertrophic left ventricle. The combined presence of S3 and S4 is a quadruple gallop. At rapid heart rates, S3 and S4 may merge to produce a summation gallop.

Abnormal sounds

The aortic area, pulmonic area, tricuspid area and mitral area are the areas where the heart is auscultated. Heart murmurs are produced as a result of turbulent flow of blood, turbulence sufficient to produce audible noise. They are usually heard as a whooshing sound. The term murmur only refers to a sound believed to originate within blood flow through or near the heart; rapid blood velocity is necessary to produce a murmur. Though not fully reliable, soft murmurs are less likely to reflect a serious, if any, health problem; loud murmurs essentially always reflect a problem. Yet most heart problems do not produce any murmur and most valve problems also do not produce an audible murmur.

The following paragraphs overview the murmurs most commonly heard in adults who do not have major congenital heart abnormalities.

  • Regurgitation through the mitral valve is by far the most commonly heard murmur, sometimes fairly loud to a practiced ear, even though the volume of regurgitant blood flow may be quite small. Yet, though often obvious, probably about 20% of cases of mitral regurgitation, though obvious using echocardiography visualization, do not produce an audible murmur.
  • Stenosis of the aortic valve is typically the next most common heart murmur, a systolic ejection murmur. This is more common in older adults or in those individuals having a two, not a three leaflet aortic valve.
  • Regurgitation through the aortic valve, if marked, is sometimes audible to a practiced ear with a high quality, especially electronically amplified, stethoscope. Generally, this is a very rarely heard murmur, even though aortic valve regurgitation is not so rare. Aortic regurgitation, though obvious using echocardiography visualization, usually does not produce an audible murmur.
  • Stenosis of the mitral valve, if severe, also rarely produces an audible, low frequency soft rumbling murmur, best recognized by a practiced ear using a high quality, especially electronically amplified, stethoscope.
  • Either regurgitation through, or stenosis of, the tricuspid or pulmonary valves essentially never produces audible murmurs.
  • Other audible murmurs are associated with abnormal openings between the left ventricle and right heart or from the aortic or pulmonary arteries back into a lower pressure heart chamber.
Gradations of Murmurs[1]
Grade Description
Grade 1 Very faint, heard only after listener has "tuned in"; may not be heard in all positions.
Grade 2 Quiet, but heard immediately after placing the stethoscope on the chest.
Grade 3 Moderately loud.
Grade 4 Loud, with palpable thrill (ie, a tremor or vibration felt on palpation)[2]
Grade 5 Very loud, with thrill. May be heard when stethoscope is partly off the chest.
Grade 6 Very loud, with thrill. May be heard with stethoscope entirely off the chest.

As noted, several different cardiac conditions can cause heart murmurs. However, the murmurs produced often change in complex ways with the severity of the cardiac disease. An astute physician can sometimes diagnose cardiac conditions with some accuracy based largely on the murmur, related physical examination and experience with the relative frequency of different heart conditions. However, with the advent of better quality and wider availability of echocardiography and other techniques, heart status can be recognized and quantified much more accurately than formerly possible with only a stethoscope, examination and experience.

Clicks: With the advent of newer, non-invasive imaging techniques, the origin of other, so-called adventitial sounds or "clicks" has been appreciated. These are short, high-pitched sounds.

Rubs: Patients with pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium), may have an audible pericardial friction rub. This is a characteristic scratching, creaking, high-pitched sound emanating from the rubbing of both layers of inflammated pericardium. It is the loudest in systole, but can often be heard at the beginning and at the end of diastole. It is very dependent on body position and breathing, and changes from hour to hour.

There are a number of interventions that can be performed that alter the intensity and characteristics of abnormal heart sounds. These interventions can be performed to differentiate the different heart sounds and obtain a diagnosis of the cardiac anomaly that causes the heart sound. (See Heart murmur#Interventions that change murmur sounds.)

Inhalation pressure also causes an increase in the venous blood return to the right side of the heart. Therefore, right-sided murmurs generally increase in intensity with inspiration. The increased volume of blood entering the right sided chambers of the heart restricts the amount of blood entering the left sided chambers of the heart. This causes left-sided murmurs to generally decrease in intensity during inspiration.

With expiration, the opposite haemodynamic changes occur. This means that left-sided murmurs generally increase in intensity with expiration. Having the patient lie supine and raising their legs up to a 45 degree angle facilitates an increase in venous return to the right side of the heart producing effects similar to inhalation-increased blood flow.

Surface anatomy

The opening and closing of the valves is usually much less loud than the sound of the blood rushing through the valve and "colliding" with the subsequent barrier. Because of this, auscultation to determine function of a valve is usually not performed at the position of the valve, but at a downstream position where the listener can best hear the blood colliding after the valve is closed.

Pulmonary valve (to pulmonary trunk) second intercostal space left upper sternal border
Aortic valve (to aorta) second intercostal space right upper sternal border
Mitral valve (to left ventricle) fifth intercostal space lateral to left midclavicular line
Tricuspid valve (to right ventricle) fourth intercostal space lower left sternal border

One can remember the positions of the sounds by the mnemonic "All The Presidents Men". [3]

  • A - Aortic - Right second intercostal space
  • T - Tricuspid - Left fourth intercostal space sternal border
  • P - Pulmonic - Left second intercostal space sternal border
  • M - Mitral - Fifth intercostal space lateral to left midclavicular line

Mnemonics for intercostal spaces:

  • AoRtic = RIGHT second intercostal space
  • PuLmonic = LEFT second intercostal space

Recording heart sounds

Using electronic stethoscopes, it is possible to record heart sounds via direct output to an external recording device, such as a laptop or MP3 recorder. The same connection can be used to listen to the previously-recorded auscultation through the stethoscope headphones, allowing for more detailed study of murmurs and other heart sounds, for general research as well as evaluation of a particular patient's condition.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "The Cardiovascular System." Bates, B. A Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. 9h Ed. 2005.
  2. ^ Medline Plus Medical Dictionary, definition of "cardiac thrill".
  3. ^ "Cardiovascular Examination." Pitcher, J. Physical Examination Primer. McMaster University 2007.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Heart_sounds". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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