PULSUS PARVUS ET TARDUS
Pulsus parvus et tardus refers to a late (relative to heart contraction), weak pulse, which is commonly felt during a physical examination of an individual with aortic valve stenosis. Pulse, or heart rate, is the number of heart beats per minute. Aortic stenosis is a common heart disease among older adults that can lead to heart failure and death if left untreated.
The heart consists of four chambers, consisting of the right and left atria, which are the top chambers, and the right and left ventricles, the bottom chambers. Typically, blood flows from the veins into the heart, from the right to left heart chambers, and then out through the arteries to the rest of the body. Ventricular contraction pushes the blood into the arteries, an action called “systole.” The systole is what is felt in a pulse. Valves, located between each heart chamber, close shut each time the heart contracts, producing a heart sound.
Aortic valve stenosis is characterized by the narrowing of the aortic valve, which is located between the left ventricle and the aorta, a large artery that pumps oxygenated blood from the heart to the body. The narrowing minimizes blood flow to the rest of the body and can increase pressure in the left atrium. The decreased blood flow causes the heartbeat to weaken and be late or out of rhythm. This change in heartbeat is called pulsus parvus et tardus.
Since the left ventricle has to pump harder to get the blood out, the muscle wall may thicken over time and decrease function of the left ventricular systole, the part of the heartbeat when the left ventricle contracts. This can lead to heart failure.
Pulsus parvus et tardus is a weak, late (relative to heart contraction) pulse indicating aortic valve stenosis, a common cardiovascular disease. Aortic stenosis is most commonly caused by accumulation of scar tissue and calcium deposit around the aortic valve. Pulsus parvus et tardus is often checked for during a physical examination, when a clinician checks the pulse in the carotid arteries while simultaneously listening to heart sounds of aortic stenosis is made through a clinical examination, EKG, and echocardiography.
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