Pediatric Heart Murmur
A heart murmur is defined as an extra or unusual sound that is heard during a heartbeat, which is the sound made when blood flows into and out of the heart. It is not unusual for a child to have a heart murmur; in most cases, it is not an indicator of an underlying heart problem. Referred to as "innocent" or "functional," this type of murmur is heard only periodically, often goes away as a child gets older, and does not affect quality of life in any way. However, a problematic murmur, which is classified as abnormal, can be the result of a congenital heart defect (a structural defect present at birth). A heart murmur is graded, based on its intensity (loudness), on a scale of one to six.
Causes of a Pediatric Heart Murmur
Abnormal pediatric heart murmurs can be caused by congenital defects, which may include:
- Atrial septal defects
- Valve abnormalities
- Heart muscle disorders
Children in whom congenital heart defects are detected, are usually referred to pediatric cardiologists for treatment.
Symptoms of a Pediatric Heart Murmur
Although a pediatric heart murmur is often first detected during stethoscopic examination by a pediatrician, it may be detected during a fetal ultrasound; if so, a plan of treatment can be put together before the baby is born. A child with an innocent heart murmur has no symptoms. A child with an abnormal heart murmur, however, may experience, depending on age, the following:
- Rapid breathing
- Blue tinge to the lips/fingertips
- Difficulty feeding
- Failure to thrive
- Sudden weight gain
- Excessive sweating
- Chronic cough
- Chest pain
- Enlarged veins in the neck
- Enlarged liver
Symptoms are different in newborns/infants and older children/adolescents, with the first four symptoms above being common in newborns and infants.
Treatment of a Pediatric Heart Murmur
An innocent heart murmur does not require treatment because it is not caused by a heart condition; it also tends to go away on its own. An abnormal murmur is addressed by treating the underlying heart condition. Although some types of structural defects require surgery, others, such as small holes in the heart's lower chambers, may resolve on their own.