A heart murmur is a swishing sound that blood makes as it moves through the heart. A heart murmur is an indication of an abnormality of the heart or valve structure. In most cases, these are completely harmless and a normal finding. Occasionally, these can be more serious and require further investigation and intervention. Most children have a heart murmur at some time in their life. These murmurs come and go during childhood. They don’t affect the child’s health. As your child gets older, the murmurs go away on their own. These are called "innocent" or "functional" murmurs. Some illnesses, like a viral infection, may lead to a murmur that goes away on its own and is a result of an acute illness.
Sometimes a heart murmur is a sign of a problem in the heart. If your child's healthcare provider suspects this, your child will be referred to a heart specialist (pediatric cardiologist). Special tests will be ordered. These include:
EKG. This looks at the electric pattern of the heart.
Echocardiogram. This test is like an ultrasound of the heart.
A heart murmur can also be caused by a congenital heart defect (CHD). Babies born with CHD may have symptoms at birth. Others may have symptoms later in childhood or as teenagers. Others may never have any symptoms at all.
These are 2 common types of congenital heart defects:
A hole in the center wall of the heart that divides the chambers
A narrowed or leaky heart valve
A hole in the center wall of the heart may close on its own as the child grows older. Or it may be so small that it doesn’t cause any problem. Sometimes your child may need surgery to fix a larger hole. A defect in the heart valve may need medicine, treatment with a special catheter, or surgery.
Follow these guidelines when caring for your child at home:
Innocent heart murmurs don’t need any special care or treatment.
If medicine was prescribed, have your child take it exactly as directed.
A teen with a congenital heart defect should not get body piercings. Piercings make it easier for bacteria to get into the body. The bacteria can harm the heart.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.
Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
In a newborn or baby:
Doesn’t gain weight normally
Blue legs or feet
In a child or teenager:
Tiredness or difficulty exercising
Trouble gaining weight
Swelling of the legs
Complains that his or her heart is beating fast