Heart Murmurs in Kids: They’re Common and Usually Harmless - Nemours Blog


Heart Murmurs in Kids: They’re Common and Usually Harmless

Heart Murmurs in Kids: They’re Common and Usually Harmless, by Steven Ritz, MD | Promise, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

You might worry if you’re told your child has a heart murmur. But lots of kids are found to have heart murmurs at some point. And most won’t affect a child’s health at all.

So What Is a Heart Murmur?

The term “heart murmur” isn’t a diagnosis of an illness or disorder. The doctor might hear an extra sound in addition to the “lub-dub” we recognize as the heartbeat. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound (like a blowing or whooshing) that’s usually detected by a doctor who’s listening to the heart with a stethoscope during a routine examination.

What’s an “Innocent” Heart Murmur?

The most common type of heart murmur is an “innocent murmur” (also called a “benign” or “functional” murmur). This type of murmur is harmless.

An innocent heart murmur is the sound of blood moving through a normal, healthy heart in a normal way. Just as you might hear air moving through an air duct or water flowing through a pipe, doctors can hear blood moving through the heart even when there’s no heart problem. An innocent heart murmur can come and go throughout childhood. And most will go away on their own as a child gets older.

Kids with these murmurs also don’t need a special diet, activity restrictions, or any other special treatment. In fact, kids with innocent murmurs are considered perfectly healthy — no different than other kids.

When Is a Heart Murmur Cause for Concern?

Sometimes heart murmurs may indicate a structural abnormality that may or may not be serious. In these cases, doctors will refer children to a pediatric cardiologist.

Pediatric cardiologists are trained to know the difference between innocent murmurs and those that might be the sign of an underlying issue. And, if a heart murmur is caused by a heart defect, they can quickly diagnose and work to treat the underlying problem as soon as possible.

To determine whether a heart murmur in a child is due to a heart defect, cardiologists often use an echocardiogram (or “echo,” for short). An echo is a completely safe and painless test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to build a series of pictures of the heart.

Learn More About Heart Murmurs

Get detailed information about the Nemours Cardiac Center, how the heart works, and congenital heart disease.

Watch Dr. Steven Ritz explain a little more about heart murmurs.

Steven Ritz, MD

Dr. Steven Ritz is a pediatric cardiologist for the Nemours Cardiac Center, located at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del.