The human heartbeat is usually steady: lub-dub, lub-dub. In some people, though, the blood makes an extra noise as it flows through the heart. This sound is called a murmur
Loading the player...Heart Murmurs in Children Dr. Shubhayan Sanatani, MD, FRCPC, Pediatric Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist, talks about heart murmurs in children.
A heart murmur is one of the most common reasons for being sent to a pediatrician or a pediatric cardiologist. A heart murmur is a sound, and it’s a sound that’s usually heard by a doctor or a nurse at a health encounter. There are a lot of misconceptions about what a heart murmur actually is. Some people think it means there’s a hole in the heart, or a skipped beat. It’s not a diagnosis, but it’s just a sound.
Most children can have a heart murmur heard at some point in their lives. And there’s lots of reasons for this. Their chest walls are thin, blood is moving quickly, the structures are a bit smaller, so it’s very common to hear this normal blood flow sound. In fact, most heart murmurs are just that; they’re just the sound of normal blood flow in otherwise healthy children.
A heart murmur in and of itself doesn’t really have symptoms. A heart murmur rarely means there’s underlying heart disease. And that heart disease may be associated with symptoms. Particularly in young children, in infants, difficulties with feeding, or growing, breathing difficulties, those can be signs of heart disease. And sometimes that heart disease presents with a heart murmur—the sound of the abnormal blood flow in this case. Again, it’s important to remember that most heart murmurs represent normal blood flow in otherwise healthy children.
A heart murmur will often be picked up as an incidental finding. A child may be at a routine health appointment. A common scenario is during another illness, so a viral illness—particularly one that is associated with a fever—a murmur might be heard at that time. Once a heart murmur is heard, it’s common to be referred to a pediatrician or a pediatric cardiologist, who may in turn order additional investigations.
Since most children with heart murmurs don’t have any heart disease at all, there may not be a need for any testing. If the heart murmur is found to be associated with heart disease, there may be treatment required. Many forms of heart disease don’t require any treatment at all. These will be the things that you discuss with your pediatric cardiologist. If you do have any questions about heart murmurs, your family doctor or your pediatrician will be happy to talk to you.