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Heart Doctors May Have Hard Time Spotting Valve Problems

Additional training improved detection of heart murmurs and accompanying conditions, study finds

TUESDAY, Sept. 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Heart specialists can't always identify heart valve problems through the sound of heart murmurs, but additional training improves their abilities, a new study shows.

A heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound that occurs during a heartbeat, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Some murmurs don't indicate a problem, but others can signal heart valve problems, the NHLBI says.

The study included nearly 1,100 cardiologists who had their skills assessed at American College of Cardiology meetings from 2011 to 2014.

They were asked to diagnose heart valve problems after listening to recordings of heart murmurs. The doctors failed to identify half of basic problems and one-third of advanced problems, the study found.

The cardiologists then did extra training for both basic and advanced heart valve problems (90 minutes each). They improved from 48 percent to 88 percent in identifying basic problems and from 66 percent to 93 percent in identifying advanced problems, the research showed.

The study was presented at a European Society of Cardiology recent meeting in London. Findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The study confirms the widely held belief that cardiologists' skills in identifying heart valve problems have decreased over time, according to study co-author Patrick O'Gara, past-president of the American College of Cardiology.

"As shown in this and other studies, however, these skills can improve with repetition and training," he said in a college news release.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart valve problems.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 31, 2015
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