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How do heart murmurs relate to cardiac anatomy?
Heart murmurs are a series of vibrations that can be heard at the chest wall and radiates from the chest wall from the heart or great vessels. The murmurs are created by disturbances in the laminar blood flow. The type of heart murmur detected can be used to decide if there is any structural abnormality in the heart and tells us where the damage is. Often murmurs are caused by abnormal blood flow through damaged valves or septational defects. Functional anatomy of valves The generation of heart murmurs is often due to abnormal blood flow which can be caused by structural abnormalities in the valves. There are two types of valves: inlet valves (atrioventricular valves) and outlet valves (semilunar valves). There are two atrioventricular valves and these control blood flow from the atria to the ventricles. The tricuspid valve is found between the right atrium and the right ventricle and consists of three cusps (leaflets) which are inserted in the anterior, posterior and septal margins. The cusps of these valves, which are made of fibrous tissue and are covered by a thin layer of endothelium, are connected to an annular fibrous skeleton which is formed from atrioventricular endocardial cushions. The end of the cusps are attached to thin strands of connective tissue called chordate tendineae and these are connected to papillary muscles which arise from the base of the ventricles. Similarly the left atrioventricular valve has two leaflets, anterior and posterior, which are attached to a fibrous skeleton, chordate tendinae and papillary muscles. The second type of valves are semi-lunar valves which consist of pulmonary and aortic valves. The pulmonary valve lies between the infundibulum and pulmonary artery; whereas the aortic valve is between the left ventricle and the aorta. Both valves have three semilunar concave cusps. During ventricular contraction the leaflets of the semilunar valves are pressed against the wall of the outflow tracts but when interventricular pressure falls blood in the artery returns to the ventricles and the filling action results in the leaflets being pressed against each other to form a closed valve. Heart valves can be impaired in two ways; it can either be stenosed or it can be incompetent. Both these effects which can be due to errors in embryonic development or due to diseases in adult life reduces the pumping efficiency of the heart and causes turbulence of blood flow. The turbulence of the blood flow can be heard using a stethoscope and depending on the characteristic of the heart murmur the type of abnormality can be diagnosed and treated. Before discussing why murmurs occur, the formation of normal heart sounds will first be discussed. Normal heart sounds
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