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What is a heart murmur?
A heart murmur is a continuous sound that is audible with a common stethoscope, produced when blood passes through particular areas of the heart. The heart has four chambers, two atria (singular = atrium) and two ventricles separated by a "skeleton" of cartilage that separates each chamber. This skeleton is made up of the atrial septum, the ventricular septum, and four valves (aortic, pulmonary, mitral, and tricuspid) that direct blood flow in a specific route within the heart allowing the most efficient use of each heartbeat to pump blood to the rest of the body.
How the heart works
Each heartbeat has two phases, systole when the heart pumps and diastole when the heart chambers fill with blood.
Blood enters the right
atrium from the body via the vena cava.
It travels through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle.
A systolic heartbeat sends the blood through the pulmonary valve, which separates the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, to the lung.
In the lung, oxygen is delivered to red blood cells and carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, is removed.
The oxygenated blood returns to the left atrium where it travels through the mitral valve into the left ventricle.
The systolic heartbeat also causes the left side of the heart to contract and send the blood through the aortic valve that separates the left ventricle and the aorta.
Blood passes through the aorta to the body delivering oxygen to the body's tissues.
The sound of a murmur is generated when blood flow within the heart is not smooth and turbulence occurs. Using a stethoscope, a health care practitioner may be
able to hear a heart murmur during the physical examination. Not all heart murmurs are abnormal or dangerous and may be innocent, but if one is present it may
potentially signal a structural abnormality of the heart.