Hearing the words “Your child has a heart murmur” can be quite scary for an unsuspecting parent. However, heart murmurs are more common than you probably realise.
What is a heart murmur?
When a doctor listens to a heart through a stethoscope they hear “lub-dub”. This is the sound flowing through the valves of the heart. Sometimes the heart makes an extra sound as blood passes through, such as a swishing or whooshing noise, and this is known a heart murmur.
There are many reasons your child may have a heart murmur, however having a murmur does not necessarily mean your child has a heart problem.
The most common type of heart murmur is called an innocent murmur which means the murmur is not caused by any congenital or common heart defects. No special treatment is required for an innocent heart murmur. Innocent murmurs are so common it is estimated that around 40% of children will have one at some point. This is because heart murmurs can come and go throughout childhood, sometimes even through adulthood. They may be present from birth or develop over time.
Abnormal heart murmurs can be caused by a range of issues including valve or structural defects or even anaemia.
People with innocent murmurs do not show any signs or symptoms.
Abnormal murmurs are associated with symptoms of heart problems such as:
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Blue tinge to lips, fingers, toes.
Heart murmurs are generally detected during a routine check up. If your child has a fever, a heart murmur may be more easily detected as the heart is working harder.
If your doctor is concerned about the murmur they may refer you to a paediatric cardiologist and/or order a non-invasive test to investigate such as an echocardiogram, ECG or chest x-ray.
If your child’s heart murmur is diagnosed as innocent, no further treatment or ongoing monitoring will be required. They can lead a normal, active life and the heart murmur should not pose a danger to your child’s health.
In the case of abnormal murmurs, depending on the cause, your child will need to under further testing and treatment.