When listening to your baby’s heart with a stethoscope, the doctor can hear the heart valves open and close as they pump blood throughout the body.
If the doctor hears extra blood moving in the heart, your baby may have a heart murmur.
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What Is a Heart Murmur?
If blood is flowing normally, that extra sound means your baby may have what’s called an “innocent” heart murmur, which is very common. Up to 90% of children have innocent heart murmurs. Children with an innocent heart murmur have no restrictions on their activities. They also don’t need treatment or a special diet. That extra sound may get louder when a child is sick, but the condition won’t cause problems. For many children, the sound will resolve on its own by the time they’re teenagers. A baby with an innocent heart murmur has a healthy heart that is pumping blood as it should.
If your child’s pediatrician hears signs of abnormal blood flow when listening to your baby’s heartbeat, there might be an issue. The heart murmur may be the first sign that your child was born with a problem with the heart’s structure. This is broadly referred to as a congenital heart defect.
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What Causes a Heart Murmur?
Most heart murmurs are caused by normal blood flow in the heart. While rare, these birth defects can cause specific heart murmurs in babies:
Septal defects: These are defects like a hole in the wall between the heart’s chambers.
Valve problems: Heart valves open and close to let blood pass through. Sometimes these valves don’t work properly and affect blood flow.
Narrowing of vessels: Sometimes vessels do not grow correctly.
Heart muscle issues: Problems with the heart muscle can cause an abnormal sound.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your doctor suspects that your baby’s heart murmur has an underlying cause, you’ll likely be referred to a cardiologist for an evaluation. The cardiologist may request additional imaging tests — such as an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram — to get more details about your child’s heart.
Heart murmur treatment depends on the cause. If your doctor finds a congenital heart defect, early intervention can keep your baby healthy and help avoid long-term issues.
If your baby is diagnosed with a heart defect, ask lots of questions and follow your doctor’s advice. Your child’s doctor is there to ensure your baby’s heart is pumping as it should.
To learn more about heart murmur in babies, visit the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh or call 412-692-5540 to make an appointment.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.