What to do about a heart murmur?
On a routine wellness exam, your child’s pediatrician hears a heart murmur. Should you panic?
The answer is no.
A heart murmur can be picked up with a stethoscope and is the sound of turbulent blood flow through the heart. While it may sound scary, many murmurs in childhood are benign and called innocent, functional or physiologic murmurs. It can be the result of exercise, rapid growth, fever, anemia, or an overactive thyroid gland.
Listen to your child’s doctor. He or she may ask you to make a follow-up appointment to see if the murmur has gone away. The doctor may also refer you to a pediatric cardiologist for further investigation.
An electrocardiogram or echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) will verify there are no structural heart problems, such as leaky or tight values or holes in the middle wall of the heart. Treatment will depend upon the cause.
If your child experiences any of these symptoms, you’ll want to tell your pediatrician immediately. Limit any exercise until you’ve gotten an evaluation.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath with exertion
- Excessive sweating
- Poor eating and growth
- Bluish fingers or lips
- Feet, legs or abdomen swelling
- Weight gain
Any family history of cardiac disease is also important to share with your child’s doctors.
The good news is that a benign murmur most often does not result in heart problems as an adult. Sometimes abnormal heart murmurs do require longer-term monitoring.
Look to your pediatric cardiologist or pediatrician for guidance on a treatment plan. Adults who required cardiac catherization or surgery, as children, need lifelong cardiac care in collaboration with a board certified adult congenital cardiologist.
Dr. Ira Shetty is director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program and Director of Non-Invasive Pediatric Electrophysiology at the Advocate Children’s Heart Institute.
About the Author
Dr. Ira Shetty is director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program and Director of Non-Invasive Pediatric Electrophysiology at the Advocate Children's Heart Institute.