Question 30.3

List four clinical signs of severity in chronic aortic regurgitation.          (40% marks) 

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College answer

•    Collapsing pulse/wide pulse pressure  
•    Length of decrescendo diastolic murmur  
•    LV third heart sound  
•    Soft A2  
•    Austin Flint (mid-diastolic) murmur  
•    Left ventricular failure  
•    Displaced apex beat  


This question closely resembles the first part of Question 16 from the first paper of 2016, which expected the candidates to "list five clinical signs of severity in chronic aortic regurgitation. (25% marks)". The college answer here is a direct cut-and-paste. The author, emboldened by this, has reproduced the discussion section for Question 16 below, with neither useful modification nor any sense of shame. 

One might expect that features suggestive of severity in chronic AR would be mainly features related to the effect of AR on cardiac function, not just generic features of AR

  • LV dilatation (displaced apex, diffuse hyperdynamic impulse)
  • Congestive cardiac failure (low blood pressure, peripheral oedema)
  • Poor exercise tolerance
  • Signs of widened pulse pressure (see below)
  • An S3, suggestive of poor LV function

Generic features of AR are as follows:

  • Signs of widened pulse pressure:
    These were mentioned in Question 14.2 from the first paper of 2013
    • Corrigans sign: a "jerky" carotid pulse: full expansion, followed by complete collapse. You're palpating the pressure of the left ventricle, essentially. It's named after a 19th century Irishman. It indicates a severe aortic incompetence.
    • de Musset's sign which the college answer has spelled incorrectly is  a visible nodding of the head in time with arterial pulsation in patients with severe aortic insufficiency. It is named after an aortically insufficient French poet.
    • Quincke's sign, otherwise known as Quincke's pulse, is a nail sign: it is seen when the nailbed is blanched. The pale nail bed flashed red and white as capillary refill is restored. It can also be seen in the absence of any aortic problems, in patients who have sclerodactily.
    • Duroziez's sign is elicited by listening over the femoral artery with the bell of the stethoscope. It is supposed to be a double murmur. According to some recent evidence, it has almost 100% specificity. There is supposed to be both a systolic and a diastolic bruit, as blood rushes into - and then rapidly out of - the femoral artery.
  • These are mentioned in UpToDate:
    • Traube's sign – A pistol shot pulse (systolic and diastolic sounds) heard over the femoral arteries.
    • Mueller's sign – Systolic pulsations of the uvula.
    • Becker's sign – Visible pulsations of the retinal arteries and pupils.
    • Hill's sign – Popliteal cuff systolic pressure exceeding brachial pressure by more than 20 mmHg with patient in the recumbent position.
    • Mayne's sign – More than a 15 mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure with arm elevation from the value obtained with the arm in the standard position.
    • Rosenbach's sign – Systolic pulsations of the liver.
    • Gerhard's sign – Systolic pulsations of the spleen. 
  • Chacteristic auscultatory findings:
    • Soft S1
    • Soft A2
    • An S3 if LV function is severely depressed
    • A systolic ejection sound due to abrupt aortic distension


Nicholas Joseph Talley, Simon O'Connor; Clinical Examination: A Systematic Guide to Physical Diagnosis (7th ed)

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