What You Need to Know About Pediatric Heart Murmurs

We all want our children to be healthy and active, so what do you do when your child is diagnosed with a heart murmur? Well, the short answer is, nothing. In most cases, the heart murmurs that occur in children are deemed “innocent.” They may also be called “functional” or “physiologic,” but these three terms are all used to describe heart murmurs that don’t require any special treatment.
Innocent murmurs are pretty common in children, and they don’t require any special treatment or restrictions. Many children get them, and the murmurs may disappear and reappear throughout childhood. Children who have murmurs can participate in all the same physical activities as other children— running, playing sports, and swimming to their heart’s content. They don’t need medication or follow-up care. Once the murmur has been diagnosed as innocent, there is really no further need for concern.
So what causes a heart murmur? Many are caused by a congenital heart defect. A stenotic heart valve is one that has a smaller-than-normal opening, causing the valve to not open completely, or not close completely. This causes the blood to leak backward through the valve, making the “whoosh” sound often associated with heart murmurs. Murmurs can occur during the contraction or the relaxation of the heart muscle. When it occurs during the relaxation between beats, the murmur is called a diastolic murmur. A systolic murmur occurs when the heart muscle contracts. Systolic murmurs are graded on a scale of one to six on their intensity or loudness. A grade 1/6 is very faint, whereas a 6/6 is quite loud and can be heard with a stethoscope slightly removed from the chest.
Though the majority of heart murmurs are innocent, if you suspect your child has an irregular heartbeat it’s always a good idea to visit the pediatrician, if only to set your mind at ease. Remember, anytime you have questions about your child’s health, we are here to help.
This article is sponsored by Pediatric Partners.
BIO: Norah M. Smith, MD is a pediatrician with Pediatric Partners in Winter Haven, Florida. Dr. Smith graduated from Pennsylvania Medical College and has been practicing medicine for 14 years. Previously, she practiced medicine at a community health center in Orlando, caring for uninsured individuals and families. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (863) 940-0918 or visit pediatric-partners.com.

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