Heart murmurs are sounds generated by blood flow. They are very common in babies and young children. Murmurs are often benign or “innocent,” and they usually are not caused by heart diseases. However, if your pediatrician had any concerns with the murmur, a referral to a pediatric cardiologist should be made for an evaluation to rule out congenital heart diseases. Pediatric cardiologists can provide expert diagnosis of heart murmurs, and formulate appropriate, personalized treatment plans when necessary.
Murmur Q & A
What is a heart murmur?
A murmur is a sound that is created by vibration of blood flow, similar to sound generated by water flowing through a hose or during a shower. Quality of the heart murmur varies depending on the source of the blood flow sound. Heart murmurs can sound like whooshing or swishing, and they can be made by turbulent blood flow in the heart. Heart murmurs are classified as normal or abnormal.
Normal heart murmurs are also called “innocent,” “functional,” "flow", or “physiologic.” Normal heart murmurs are not caused by structural heart abnormalities. Innocent heart murmurs are very common throughout pediatric development. The murmurs can often sound louder in times of illness, especially if there is fever or dehydration. These murmurs are harmless and do not need treatment or follow up.
Abnormal or pathologic heart murmurs are typically due to structural problems like a hole in the heart, a valve that has trouble opening, or a valve that leaks. Most of the time, heart murmurs are initially identified during a routine check-up or a sick visit. In some cases, primary care providers can determine if a heart murmur is innocent or pathologic during the physical exam and a review of your child’s medical history. If there is any concern, you should consult with a pediatric cardiologist for an expert assessment.
What are symptoms of a heart murmur?
Innocent heart murmurs do not cause any symptoms. Abnormal heart murmurs that correspond to mild congenital heart diseases might also not have any associated symptoms. However, you should have a pediatric cardiology evaluation if your child with an abnormal murmur and had any of the following signs / symptoms:
- Blue or gray skin (cyanosis)
- Failure to thrive
- Sudden weight gain
- New or excessive shortness of breath
- Increased sweating with routine activities
- Decrease in activity level
- Chronic cough
- Chest pain
How are heart murmurs diagnosed?
If your child has a heart murmur, a pediatric cardiologist can provide a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and treat, if necessary. Your pediatric cardiologist offers a detailed physical exam and might perform tests, including chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, or an echocardiogram. Additional advanced imaging may include a cardiac CT, cardiac MRI, or cardiac catheterization.
How are heart murmurs treated?
Innocent or functional heart murmurs are benign, treatment and follow up are not needed. If your child has a structural abnormality, additional follow up, imaging, and medical / surgical management may be necessary depending on the type of abnormality present. If your child has a heart murmur, call Wasatch Pediatric Cardiology to make an appointment.