What exactly are heart sounds?
Heart sounds are actually the same as heartbeats, which means that the heart makes them while beating. The doctor usually checks the condition of the heart by listening for the heartbeats with the help of stethoscope, and besides normal heart sounds (S1 and S2); it is also possible to detect heart murmurs, adventitious sounds and gallop rhythms S3 and S4.
Primary heart sounds
Normal heart sounds (S1 and S2) are also called primary and in cases of healthy adults, the terms that are used for their description are lub and dub. The first sound is systolic, and the contraction of the ventricles causes is, while the second sound is diastolic, and it happens when the semilunar valves close. There is usually a short silence between these two sounds. However, there are cases when these sounds do not ‘sound’ as they should, and many reasons might be responsible for something like that. For example, after a strong workout, the heartbeats will be faster and louder, but if this happens without the previous workout, then the reason might be some strong emotion (such as fear, for example) or the use of stimulants (besides drugs, some foods might also work as stimulants). As for the second sound, an increase usually indicates that the circulation in the lungs is disturbed, while the sound that is weakened might suggest that the heart is weakened as well, or that the fat has accumulated in the thorax. The heartbeat might also be muffled or even extinguished in some cases, and this suggests effusion in the pericardium.
Other heart sounds
- A third heard sound (S3) is also known as ventricular gallop, and if it is present in youth, it is not a reason for concern, but if it occurs again later in life, it might indicate some heart problems. Trained athletes often have it, as well as some pregnant women.
- The fourth heart sound (S4) is very rare, and if it is present in adults, then it is called atrial gallop. Unfortunately, it usually indicates failing of the left ventricle, restrictive cardiomyopathy, or some other pathologic state.
- Heart murmurs are actually caused because of the turbulence in the blood flow, and they usually do not indicate any heart problem.
- Adventitial sounds, which are also called clicks, are actually short and high-pitched.
- Rubs are high-pitched sounds that resemble scratching and creaking. They can be present in those who suffer from pericarditis, which is the medical term for an inflammation or pericardium.