Heart Murmurs in Children

A heart murmur is an extra or abnormal sound that happens when the heart pumps blood. Your child's health care provider can hear the murmur when listening to your child's heart with a stethoscope.

Heart murmurs are common in children, and are most often a normal part of their growth. At some point, just about every child will have a heart murmur. A heart murmur usually doesn't mean that your child has a serious health issue.

But in rare cases, a heart murmur can be a sign of a serious condition. That's why it's important for your child to see a cardiologist. A cardiologist can find out if your child's murmur is caused by a problem in his or her heart, or if it's nothing to worry about.

Causes

There are two kinds of heart murmurs in children. The first is known as an innocent heart murmur. It's also called a functional murmur.
This is simply the normal sound of blood pumping through your child's heart. Innocent murmurs are very common in children. If your child has an innocent murmur, it shouldn't cause any problems or health concerns.

The other type of murmur is a structural murmur. This type of murmur may be caused by a problem with a heart valve or a hole between the two pumping chambers of the heart. A baby can be born with a structural murmur because of defects in the heart that happened during pregnancy. This is called a congenital murmur.

Murmurs can also show up in children as a result of diseases such as:

  • Thyroid diseases
  • Rheumatic fever, which can happen when strep throat is untreated, and
  • Endocarditis, an infection in the heart

Diagnosis

If your child has a heart murmur, he or she will need to see a cardiologist. A cardiologist will listen closely to your child's heart, and may do certain painless tests.

Your child may have an echocardiogram. Echocardiogram uses sound waves to make an image of your child's heart. This test can show how well the heart valves are working.

Your child may also need an electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG. For this test, electrodes are placed on your child's skin to record the electrical activity of the heart.

Treatment

If your child has an innocent murmur, he or she won't need any treatment. If your child has a structural murmur, your child's health care provider will talk with you about how to monitor or treat the condition.

Treatment may include:

  • Watching your child for symptoms
  • Medications
  • A procedure to repair the heart through the blood vessels, or
  • Surgery to repair the heart

Things to Remember

Many childhood murmurs are innocent and don't cause health problems.
Untreated infections can cause a murmur, so contact your child's health care provider if your child is very sick or has a high fever that lasts more than a few days.
There are many treatment options for heart murmurs.
In most cases, a heart murmur won't affect your child's health. But it's important for any murmur to be checked out by a health care provider.

What We Have Learned

A heart murmur can be caused by a genetic syndrome or other disease. True or false? The answer is true. Certain infections and genetic diseases can cause heart murmurs.

Structural murmurs are less of a problem than innocent murmurs. True or false? The answer is false. Innocent murmurs don't cause health problems.