Pediatric Heart Murmur
What is a heart murmur?
Heart murmurs are extra or unusual sounds made by blood circulating through the heart or nearby blood vessels. In many cases murmurs are not serious and do not affect a child’s health, but they can be part of a more serious condition.
Many times, what sounds like a murmur is actually the sound of blood moving through the heart normally. Also known as “innocent murmurs,” these sounds come and go, such as when a child has a cold or the flu.
A heart murmur isn’t always serious. However, if your child’s heartbeat sounds unusual, it’s important to see a cardiologist to be sure. If your child does need treatment at all, the specialists at Children’s Health can help. Physicians at Children’s Health are world-class subspecialists from UT Southwestern with years of experience caring for children with heart murmurs.
Heart murmurs become more worrisome when a child also has structural heart problems or certain infections known to cause heart damage, such as endocarditis and Rheumatic fever. In these cases, an abnormal heart murmur is often the first noticeable symptom of a more serious heart condition.
What are the symptoms of a heart murmur?
If your child has innocent heart murmurs, he or she will not experience any symptoms. The extra sounds may come and go, but your child will eventually outgrow them.
Abnormal heart murmurs also have no symptoms other than unusual sounds your doctor hears when listening to your heart. When children with an abnormal heart murmur start showing other symptoms, it’s time to see a cardiologist.
Symptoms of other heart conditions include:
- Skin that appears ashen or blue from poor circulation (cyanosis)
- Pale skin
- Heavy or rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty feeding
- Poor growth
How are heart murmurs diagnosed?
An abnormal murmur itself is not a disease. More importantly, it’s a sign that your child may need additional tests to diagnose the condition that may be causing it. We start with a comprehensive exam, which may include one or more diagnostic tests.
Your child’s evaluation may include:
- Questions about growth, development, family history and any recent illnesses
- Careful examination of your child’s murmur, including its location, timing, the sounds it makes and whether it changes when your child changes position
- Rating your child’s heart murmur on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being very quiet and 6 very loud
Sometimes a heart murmur is a sign that your child has a congenital heart defect.
Tests for congenital heart defects include:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Chest X-ray
- Transesophageal echocardiogram
- Cardiac catheterization
- Cardiac CT
- Cardiac MRI
As one of the only accredited pediatric diagnostic testing labs in North Texas, specialists at Children’s Health is recognized for meeting the strictest standards for testing and diagnosing all forms of heart disease. Learn more about our cardiac imaging department.
If tests show signs of a congenital heart defect, your child is in good hands. Children’s Health is one of few programs in the country providing comprehensive care for all forms of congenital heart disease from childhood to adulthood.
How are heart murmurs treated?
The best treatment for an abnormal heart murmur often involves treating the underlying cause.
- Medications: Improve heart functioning or remove excess fluid
- Non-surgical procedures (cardiac catheterization): Fix structural heart defects, such as patching holes in your child’s heart or repairing narrow blood vessels
- Corrective surgery: Repairs or replaces damaged or nonfunctioning heart structures such as leaky valves or a hole in the heart
With a large team of pediatric cardiology specialists, experts at Children’s Health expertly delivers treatments for all forms of congenital heart disease. Learn more about our cardiothoracic surgery and cardiac catheterization programs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Could an innocent murmur become a problem as my child grows up?
No. In most cases, innocent murmurs go away as children grow older.
Will my child need heart surgery?
Not always. Sometimes, the condition causing your child’s heart murmur heals on its own. If your child has innocent murmurs, they won’t need any treatment at all. Children may need surgery if a severe heart defect is causing their murmurs.
My child’s pediatrician heard murmurs and referred us to a cardiologist, but the cardiologist didn’t hear any murmurs. What happened?
In some cases heart murmurs come and go – especially in young children. Your child’s cardiologist may ask you to come back another time to see if the murmur returns.
Can heart murmurs damage my child’s heart?
No. A heart murmur is simply a condition that exists when blood circulating through your child’s heart makes unusual sounds. Sometimes, a heart murmur is a symptom of an underlying condition such as congenital heart disease which may cause heart damage if left untreated.
Heart Murmur Resources
Learn more about hear murmurs: