Are Heart Murmurs in Children Dangerous?
“Murmur” is probably the most misunderstood word in pediatric cardiology. Heart murmurs are the most common referral to a pediatric cardiologist. Almost all children will have a murmur heard at some point in their life.
A murmur is simply a sound coming from blood moving in the heart or through blood vessels connected to the heart. A child’s heart is smaller and beats faster than an adult heart. This creates “turbulence of blood flow” within or leaving the heart, which can be heard with a stethoscope. Murmurs can change in intensity, depending on how fast blood is moving through the heart, and may be louder during times of fever, anemia or stress. “Innocent murmurs’’ – harmless sounds of the blood flowing through the heart chambers -- can come and go. They can be heard one day and not the next.
The majority of murmurs in childhood are benign and do not represent anything wrong with the heart. We call these murmurs many different terms: innocent, physiologic, benign, normal or functional. They all mean the same thing. Many murmurs are picked up on routine medical exams such as annual or sports physicals. In most cases, a pediatric cardiologist can listen to a child’s heart and determine if a murmur is an innocent murmur of childhood or deserves further workup. Often people will say that they had a murmur as a child that went away. It is most likely that they had an innocent murmur of childhood.
Some murmurs are heard because there are holes in the heart, valves in the heart that leak too much, or are too narrow. Those types of murmurs often sound louder and have a different sound than innocent murmurs of childhood. If a murmur is found to be associated with a problem with the heart, your pediatric cardiologist will work with Ochsner’s pediatric and congenital heart team at Ochsner Hospital for Children to develop a treatment plan.
As pediatric cardiologists, it is our job to take a good patient history, look for other symptoms and listen to differentiate between an innocent or more serious heart murmur. Murmurs that seem questionable or suspicious are further evaluated by an echocardiogram. Much of the time, echocardiograms can be performed the same day as the visit with the cardiologist.
During this time of COVID-19, parents have many questions when it comes to their children and scheduling appointments with their pediatrician. Please know our pediatric offices have set measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are doing everything we can to keep you and your little one safe.
For in-person visits, you should expect temperature checks on arrival and social distancing measures to be followed when visiting our office. To practice social distancing, chairs and tables will be spaced out, acrylic shields have been placed over registration desks and there are directions on signs and on the floors to signify proper distances. You also have the option to fill out paperwork ahead of time through the My Ochsner app. Patients will be directed to exam rooms as soon as they arrive to limit contact with others. Our staff will also practice social distancing unless it is necessary to come in closer contact for patient care.
Extra measures are being taken to ensure all patient rooms and public areas are cleaned and sanitized. While our staff is always diligent about cleaning our facilities, we have increased the number of times a day that our staff cleans all public areas.
To learn more about Pediatric Cardiology, visit ochsner.org/pediatric-cardiology.
For the fifth year in a row, Ochsner Hospital for Children has been ranked among the Top 50 Children’s Hospitals in the country for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report. The U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals rankings rely on clinical data and on an annual survey of pediatric specialists. The rankings methodology factors in patient outcomes, such as mortality and infection rates, as well as available clinical resources and compliance with best practices. Ochsner Hospital for Children is Louisiana's only ranked children's hospital.
Ochsner Hospital for Children has offered exceptional pediatric care for more than 75 years. Ochsner offers the only pediatric heart and liver transplant program in the state, serving over 76,000 children every year with 140 physicians specializing in more than 30 pediatric specialties and sub-specialties. Ochsner Hospital for Children’s flagship facility is located in New Orleans, with subspecialty clinics across Louisiana and in Mississippi.