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HealthInfo Canterbury

Heart murmurs & heart valve problems in adults

Heart murmurs

If you have a heart murmur, this means that your doctor has heard an extra sound when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.

A heart murmur is caused by turbulent (disturbed) flow of blood through a heart valve. Heart murmurs are very common and can be caused by very minor blood flow changes right up to severe heart valve problems, which can affect the normal functioning of the heart. Minor blood flow changes are not important but heart valve problems can be important.

Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of one to six, with one being the faintest and six being the loudest. The management and treatment of a heart murmur is usually determined by its grade and type. Minor murmurs often need no tests or treatments.

For more information, see National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (USA) – What is a heart murmur

Heart valve problems

Symptoms of a heart valve problem might include shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting/loss of consciousness, or heart failure. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should arrange an appointment with your general practice team. Your doctor will normally listen closely to your heart and check your pulse and blood pressure. Other tests may include:

Some people will be eligible to have the above tests paid for by the public health system, however there may be a wait.

If you prefer, or would like to have these tests sooner, you can pay to see a private heart specialist/cardiologist. You can find one through these searches:

You may need to be referred to the Cardiology Department at the hospital for further investigations.

What can I do?

If you have a heart valve problem, there are actions you can take to manage your health:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated August 2015.

Page reference: 47798

Review key: HIHMV-28309