Diagnosing aortic valve stenosis from a heart murmur

The best direct evidence of aortic valve stenosis that your doctor can find during a physical exam is a heart murmur, which is the sound of turbulent blood flow across a narrowed aortic valve. Think about the flow of water when you turn on a water faucet and block the opening with your finger: The water tends to spray roughly because of the high pressure pushing through the narrow faucet opening.

Your doctor will suspect aortic valve stenosis upon hearing a murmur during systole, which is when the left ventricle contracts and pumps blood through the aorta. If aortic valve stenosis is causing the murmur, your doctor will be able to hear it most clearly in the area of the aorta, which is in the upper right part of the chest near the breastbone. The sound of the murmur will also appear to move upwards toward your neck, the sound rising to a peak and then declining at the same rate.

Last Updated: November 4, 2009

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