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Heart Murmur Explained

What Is a Heart Murmur and What Does Heart Murmur Mean?

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Updated June 05, 2014

Heart Valves and Chambers

The Human Heart

Image © A.D.A.M.

What Is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard during auscultation, the process of listening to the heart through a stethoscope. The murmur may be an extra sound that is not typically present, louder than normal, or even a longer sound than is typically present.

It is important to remember that the presence of a heart murmur does not mean there is a problem with the heart, many children and adults have a heart murmur and their heart is completely healthy. In fact, the vast majority of murmurs do not indicate a serious problem.

Innocent Heart Murmur

A heart murmur that is present in a normal and healthy heart is called an innocent murmur. These are common in infants and children, and may be present during one checkup and gone during a later one. Children can outgrow murmurs completely, or the sounds may become less pronounced over time.

Innocent murmurs may also be present in adults, and are equally harmless. Only a skilled practitioner, or medical testing such as an echocardiogram, can determine if a murmur is innocent or not.

Abnormal Heart Murmur

The other type of heart murmur, an abnormal murmur, does indicate a problem with the heart. There may be an issue with the function of the heart itself, the structure of the heart, or the sound may be due to a malfunction of the heart valves. Murmurs can be caused by heart problems that range from mild and requiring little or no medical intervention to life-threatening, requiring immediate surgery.

In children, an abnormal murmur may be the result of a congenital heart defect. In adults, an abnormal murmur also indicates a problem, but it could be a problem that was not diagnosed in childhood, or a problem that didn’t exist until adulthood. In older people, the murmur is most commonly caused by a problem with a heart valve, such as prolapse, stenosis or endocarditis.

If an abnormal murmur is suspected, an echocardiogram may be recommended to determine the nature of the problem. An EKG (electrocardiogram) may be performed, along with any additional tests that the physician deems necessary. If the problem is severe, heart surgery may be recommended.

For More Information About The Human Heart & Heart Surgery

Sources:

Heart Murmurs. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed March 2009. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/heartmurmur/hmurmur_what.html

Heart Murmurs. Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Accessed March 2009. http://www.texasheartinstitute.org/hic/topics/cond/murmur.cfm

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