Heart Murmurs

Q: What is a heart murmur?


A heart murmur is a sound that your health care provider or pediatrician hears as blood flows through the blood vessels, heart chambers, or valves. A heart murmur does not always mean that there is a heart defect. In fact, up to 75% of children, ages 2 to 6 years old, have heart murmurs and only a very small percentage actually have a heart defect.

Q: What causes a heart murmur?


Most heart murmurs in childhood are innocent and are sounds we hear as blood flows normally in the heart. Some murmurs are caused by holes in the heart or by narrowed or leaking valves.

Q: What are common symptoms?


A heart murmur is not a diagnosis, but rather a sign detected by your doctor that can be normal or may signify the presence of a heart defect.

Q: How are heart murmurs evaluated?


A large percentage of patients may only require a thorough history and physical examination. Innocent murmurs typically sound different from heart murmurs caused by heart defects. Sometimes an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart, can be used to give us clues about the structure of the heart. Some patients may also require an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, to evaluate for the presence of a heart defect.

Q: When does a murmur require care from someone who specializes in children's heart disease?


Innocent murmurs in otherwise healthy children do not require treatment and often resolve in time. Some innocent murmurs may persist and can even become louder if your child has a fever, is scared, or is anemic.

If your primary care provider is concerned that the murmur is not innocent, he or she should refer your child to a pediatric cardiologist for a specialized evaluation.