Thirty-nine elderly patients, mean age 77 years (range 65 to 96), with ejection systolic murmurs were studied to evaluate the functional significance of these murmurs. Subjects were evaluated clinically, by 2-D echocardiography, and by a full Doppler echocardiography study. Good quality Doppler signals were obtained in 35 subjects. Mitral regurgitation was found to be the only significant valvular lesion in 6 patients (17%). Doppler gradients in systole across the aortic valve were less than 30 mmHg in 28 subjects (80%) and were considered not significant. Gradients of greater than 30 mmHg representing significant aortic stenosis were found in 7 subjects (20%). The clinical sensitivity in detecting significant aortic stenosis was 44% and specificity was 81%. Doppler evidence of significant aortic stenosis was found in a substantial proportion of these elderly subjects. Neither clinical assessment nor 2-D echocardiography can be relied on to exclude this condition.
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