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Your Child Has a Heart Murmur: What You Need To Know

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
doctor listens to girl's heart as mother stands nearby

Heart murmurs are quite common in babies and kids. In most cases, heart murmurs are not serious and do not affect a child’s health, but in rare cases, the heart murmur can be a sign of a serious condition.

That’s why it’s important for your child to see a pediatric cardiologist if your child’s doctor is worried after hearing a heart murmur. A pediatric cardiologist is a heart doctor for kids, and they can find out if your child’s murmur is caused by a problem in his or her heart or if it is nothing to worry about.

Causes of Heart Murmurs in Children

A heart murmur is just an extra or unusual sound made by blood circulating in the heart and nearby blood vessels, says UH Rainbow pediatric cardiologist Sarah Plummer, MD. Most of the time heart murmurs in babies and children are not serious, but at times they can be a part of a more serious condition. Your child’s healthcare provider can hear the murmur when listening to your child’s heart with a stethoscope.

Heart murmurs in children fall into two main categories. The most common category is normal or innocent heart murmurs.

“This is simply the normal sound of blood pumping through your child’s heart,” Dr. Plummer says. “Innocent murmurs are very common in children. Almost all babies or children will have a murmur at some point. If your child has a normal or innocent heart murmur, it shouldn’t cause any problems or health concerns.”

The other type of murmur is a structural or pathologic murmur.

“This type of murmur can indicate a problem within your child’s heart, like a hole or leaky valve” Dr. Plummer says.

Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs in Children

“If your pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist has concerns that your child's heart murmur may be due to a structural heart issue, the physician may order additional painless tests to take a closer look at your child's heart,” Dr. Plummer says.

These tests include:

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG), in which electrodes are placed on your child’s skin to record the heart’s electrical activity.
  • An echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), which uses ultrasound (sound waves) to produce an image of your child’s heart. This test lets your doctor check the squeeze and structure of your child’s heart and the blood vessels surrounding the heart.

Treatment of Heart Murmurs in Children

If your child has an innocent murmur, he or she will not need any treatment or to follow with a heart doctor, Dr. Plummer says. If your child has a structural murmur, you child’s healthcare provider will talk with you about next steps and treatment. Treatments depend on the severity of the condition and can include:

  • Watching your child for symptoms
  • Medicines
  • Non-surgical procedures that repair the heart
  • Surgery to repair the heart

How to Get the Most From Your Pediatric Cardiologist Visit

Dr. Plummer provides these tips for parents to get the most from your child's visit with the pediatric cardiologist:

  • Understand the reason for your visit
  • Call close family members (your child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) and gather family history of heart disease, such as children born with heart defects, family members who needed heart surgery at a young age, or who died suddenly at an early age
  • Write down the questions that you would like the doctor to address
  • Jot down the name of the diagnosis and any new medications, treatments or tests
  • Ask questions regarding your child’s exercise or activity limitations, if any
  • Know how to contact your child’s provider if any questions come up after the visit

Related Links

The Congenital Heart Collaborative at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital features a nationally recognized team of heart specialists, including pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons and pediatric cardiologists. All of our specialists have extensive pediatric training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of congenital heart conditions. Learn more about The Congenital Heart Collaborative at UH Rainbow.