Up to three out of four kids will have a heart murmur at some point in childhood, but in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about.
To explain more, Connecticut Children’s pediatric cardiologist (and American Heart Association leader!) Seth Lapuk, MD, joins the blog.
1. Most heart murmurs are normal and caused by normal blood flow through the heart.
Like water flowing in a stream, blood going through the heart makes a noise in everyone. When you can hear that noise between heartbeats with a stethoscope, it’s called a murmur.
- Murmurs are very common in kids: Up to 72% of all children have a murmur at some point in childhood. In fact, over half of all kindergarten children may have a “normal murmur.”
- Normal murmurs are sometimes called innocent murmurs, functional murmurs, flow murmurs or benign murmurs. The most common normal murmurs are Still’s murmurs, venous hums, and pulmonary flow murmurs.
- Normal murmurs are caused by regular changes that occur in your child’s body after birth. They can come and go throughout childhood without requiring treatment or having any negative effect on your child. Your child is perfectly healthy!
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2. Some murmurs are caused by heart abnormalities.
Sometimes, an abnormality of the heart – like a small hole between heart chambers – is the cause of a heart murmur. Most of these abnormalities are minor and go away on their own, or do not become worse.
Some murmurs, however, are caused by abnormalities in the heart that require special attention. These can include blockages that stop blood from flowing out of the heart, large holes between the heart chambers, or leaking of blood back through one of the heart valves.
3. Your child’s primary care pediatrician can often tell which murmurs are from problems that require specialty care.
Your child’s primary care pediatrician will use your child’s medical history, heart sounds, and many other findings on a routine physical exam to tell if their murmur is caused by a problem that requires specialty care.
4. If your child does need specialty care, they’ll see a pediatric cardiologist.
Your child’s pediatric cardiologist will typically only need to do a physical exam. Sometimes they’ll order other tests including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).
Keep in mind: Children’s heart problems are completely different from typical adult heart problems and should not be compared. Even when heart abnormalities are found in kids, they are typically very well treated and children live normal, full lives.