|Heart murmurs are heart sounds associated with the beating of the heart. They can usually be heard by the examining doctor through the use of a stethoscope.|
Murmurs can be either innocent or pathological.
An innocent murmur is due to normal turbulence and vibration as the blood passes through the heart and does not indicate present or future disease.
Pathological murmurs may be due to congenital defects or heart disease.
To some parents they can pose an unknown problem which, with a lack of knowledge, can lead to unnecessary anguish, particularly in the case of a new born baby when the murmur may only be innocent in nature.
If a child will lie still and the examination room is quiet, an innocent murmur can generally be heard in almost every child. As the child grows older and the chest wall gets thicker, innocent murmurs become harder to hear yet they sometimes can be heard in some people right throughout life.
Heart murmurs due to either congenital malformations of the heart or to heart disease may be associated with other signs such as the colour of the skin which may be unhealthy blue or there may be a rapid increase in heart rate as seen as a rapid beating of the heart in the chest or upper abdomen. This can happen with very little exertion and be associated with abnormal tiredness and breathing difficulties.
Murmurs due to congenital problems can be caused by the blood rushing through an abnormal opening of the heart wall. In some cases the defect is easily corrected. In others the blood moves from one side of the heart to the other by-passing the lungs where oxygenation and redness to the blood is produced. This is more serious and the child’s colour leads to the term blue baby.
Rheumatic fever in a young child can produce abnormalities in the valves of the heart. The valve becomes inflamed leading to the formation of scar tissue. Later on in life the valve fails to function properly which may produce a murmur.
Diagnosis is made on the basis of physical examination, the ECG (electrocardiograph), X-Rays and ultrasound of the heart (Cardiac ECHO).
As a person ages the heart valves can degenerate producing murmurs. In most people symptoms are not present and it is possible to live to a great age without ever realising you have a heart murmur.
Modern heart surgery has made it possible to operate on the heart for a variety of heart conditions in children and in adults including replacement of heart valves.
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