Heart Murmurs

When a doctor places a stethoscope on a patient’s chest, sometimes an extra sound can be heard along with the normal lub-dub sounds made by heart. This extra sound is called as heart murmur. It is the noise made by the flowing blood in the heart, which is similar to the noise heard when water flows through a hosepipe

Heart murmur is not a diagnosis in itself; it might be due to normal flow of blood or sometime might warn us to check if there is something wrong with the heart.

Types of heart murmur

There are two types of heart murmur

  1. Innocent or functional heart murmur
  2. Abnormal or non-innocent heart murmur

Innocent heart murmur is nothing but the noise made by normal blood flow through the heart. The noise is clearly heard in children as their heart is placed close to their chest wall. The sound of heart murmur depends on heart beat, which sometime may get louder when your child is playing, excited or frightened.

Innocent murmur doesn’t require any special treatments or diet. Innocent murmur usually disappears and can’t be heard when the child grows older.

Heart murmur should not be always considered as innocent. Every patient with heart murmur should be checked for heart problems as sometimes heart murmurs are due to structural defects in heart present from birth called congenital heart defects, a hole in the heart or a leaking or narrow heart valve. This condition is called as the abnormal heart murmur.

Abnormal heart murmur is a condition which indicates that something is abnormal with the heart. The patient may have fever, abnormal heart shape, hole in the heart, improper function of the heart etc.

If your doctor suspects that it is not an innocent heart murmur then it is advised that you immediately consult a cardiologist, who will perform tests like X-ray, electrocardiogram, and echocardiogram for a detailed examination.

Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Blue lips
  • Abnormal growth
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis of heart murmurs

A cardiac murmur is usually diagnosed during a routine check up using a stethoscope. If it’s a congenital heart defect it can be heard at the time of birth or during infancy. Few tests may be done to confirm whether it’s an innocent heart murmur or abnormal heart murmur.

Using a stethoscope the cardiologist will listen to the heart murmur, its exact location, timing and loudness is noted down. This will help to differentiate between innocent and non-innocent heart murmur and also its cause. The cardiologist might ask about the presence of abnormal symptoms

Based on the physical examination, if the cardiologists suspects that the heart murmur may be caused due to some abnormality in the heart, he might prescribe few more tests to confirm the cause of heart murmur. The tests include ECG, Echocardiogram and chest X-ray. Based on the results of these tests, further treatment procedure is decided.

Treating heart murmurs

As said above, heart murmur is not a disease in itself it doesn’t require any treatment unless and until there is a hidden cause that is responsible for heart murmur. Depending on the reason for heart murmur your doctor will recommend the treatment.

Sometimes conditions like anemia and hyperthyroidism may be the reason for heart murmur; treating these conditions makes the heart murmur fade away.

In case of congenital heart defects, your doctor may prescribe either medicines or corrective surgery to repair the defect, depending on the severity.

If defect in heart valve is the reason for heart murmur, then treatment depends on severity, type and amount of the disease.

Change in lifestyle and medicines that subsides symptoms can help to delay progression of the condition and related complications.