Heart murmur

Heart murmur

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What does it mean if my child has a "normal heart murmur"?

As your child's blood moves through the chambers, valves, and major vessels of his heart, it makes a "lub-dub" sound. If it makes an extra sound, it's called a heart murmur.

A heart murmur doesn't mean your child has a weak heart or any other health problems. Almost all children have one at some time or another. Some experts estimate that a heart murmur can be heard at some time in 90 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 7 with normal hearts.

Depending on what kind of murmur it is, the noise may be vibratory or rumbling, humming, swishing, gurgling, or even musical. Most of the time, this noise is diagnosed as an "innocent," "functional," "normal," or "harmless" heart murmur.

Sometimes the noise is caused by blood flowing faster or in greater amounts than usual through the heart and vessels. That can happen when your child has a fever, for example, or if he's anemic or has an overactive thyroid.

The noise may also result from something structural that doesn't affect the functioning of the heart. In that case, the sound may fade as the child's body develops and his chest wall thickens.

Innocent childhood heart murmurs require no treatment and usually go away on their own, although some people have one their whole life.

How will the doctor evaluate my child's heart murmur?

To assess whether a murmur is normal or needs looking into, a doctor checks a child's pulse and blood pressure and listens carefully to his heart with a stethoscope. For clues, the doctor tries to determine where in the heart the murmur is occurring, when in the heartbeat cycle it happens, what type of noise it is, how loud it is, and whether it changes when the child changes position.

If your child's doctor has diagnosed the murmur as normal, you can rest assured it's nothing to worry about. If the doctor isn't certain about it or is concerned, you'll be referred to a pediatric cardiologist. The cardiologist might order tests such as a chest X-ray, echocardiogram (which uses sound waves to scan and create an image of the heart), or an electrocardiogram (which records the electrical activity of the heart).

Note: If your child is a newborn and has a heart murmur, his doctor will try to determine if it's transitional – that is, his heart is changing as a result of the change of environment from intrauterine to extrauterine. You might be referred to a pediatric cardiologist, or, if it sounds benign, the doctor may follow your baby's heart murmur for a few months to see if it resolves over time.

What if my child's heart murmur isn't "normal"?

A diagnosis of an "abnormal," an "organic," or a "not-innocent" murmur means a child's heart may have a structural irregularity that warrants medical attention. It might be a congenital heart defect – meaning something that didn't develop normally before birth, such as a narrow or leaking valve, a narrow artery, or even a hole in the heart.

If a problem is found, treatment may include medication to control the heart's rhythm or surgery to correct a structural defect. Many structural defects are minor and don't need treatment, because they don't affect the functioning of the heart.

My child's heart seems to be beating awfully fast sometimes. Is this normal?

Probably. A newborn's resting heart rate is about 130 beats per minute, while a child's is normally around 80 to 100 and an adult's is 70 to 90. And the heart rate in a baby or child can rise to 160 beats a minute or more when she's crying or has a fever.

Some medications, including the asthma drug albuterol and the decongestants in allergy and cold remedies, can speed up the heartbeat. If you're concerned about this, call your child's doctor. And if your child seems distressed after being taking any medication, call the doctor or take your child to the emergency room right away.

Should I worry if my baby's heart seems to pound or skip a beat every so often?

Minor variations in heart rate and rhythm are common and usually harmless. Mention it to your child's doctor, though, just to be sure.

Watch the video: Is a heart murmur serious in adults? (July 2022).


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