Heart murmurs: What parents need to know

We asked Vimal Jayswal, MD, PPG – Specialty Pediatrics Cardiology and Kaylee Stout, RN-BSN, PPG – Specialty Pediatrics Cardiology, to explain the cause of heart murmurs, treatment and, perhaps most important, when a parent should be concerned.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is a sound heard by stethoscope while blood is moving from different chambers in the heart going through valves or holes. A heart murmur varies in intensity from vibratory and musical to harsh and loud. Heart murmurs can be harmless and are called “innocent” or “normal” murmurs, which are flow related and called “functional. A child with a normal heart murmur usually doesn’t have clinical symptoms and will not require treatment. On the other hand, an “abnormal” heart murmur is usually caused by an abnormality in the heart structure or function, including a defect in valves, holes or various congenital heart defects.

How is it most often detected?

A heart murmur would be detected during a physical examination and is heard with a stethoscope. A “normal” heart murmur varies in intensity, duration and could be heard more often when the child is sick, has a fever or is dehydrated.

When should a parent be concerned?

If the child is complaining of chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, or is turning a bluish color, passing out or experiencing exercise intolerance. Also if a newborn or infant presents with turning a bluish color, feeding difficulties, sweating with feeds, fast breathing or poor weight gain.

Why is it important to monitor a heart murmur?

Murmurs should be differentiated in normal and abnormal heart murmur. A normal heart murmur would need regular follow up with a primary care physician without need for treatment. An abnormal heart murmur needs a thorough evaluation and discussion for possible treatment and repair options.

What type of testing is involved?

Testing may include: a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram (record the electrical activity of the heart), an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart’s structure) or a consultation with a pediatric cardiologist.

Can people grow out of a heart murmur?

A majority of “normal” murmurs will resolve by adulthood, but some adults still have them.

How does Parkview care for heart murmurs?

Our dedicated pediatric cardiologist and nursing staff are well trained in taking care of children with murmurs. We obtain the necessary non-invasive testing to help determine the nature of the heart murmur. A great continuity of care is always an added benefit.

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