My child has been diagnosed with a heart murmur. Is this serious?

Possibly one of the most confusing and distressing topics for families involves heart murmurs.

In fact, there may be more confusion about heart murmurs than just about anything else we deal with! Much it comes from the fact that there is a general inclination to think that a heart murmur is always bad. Fortunately this is usually not the case!

Basically a heart murmur is just a sound or noise, nothing more. The job of the pediatric cardiologist is to determine whether a murmur in a child is due to a problem, or simply a normal sound. Unfortunately, some children are born with real heart problems, for example holes in the heart or defective heart valves. These children often have heart murmurs that are produced by turbulent blood flow through the hole or across the abnormal valve. On the other hand, many children that have completely normal, healthy hearts may have heart murmurs as well. In this case, the murmur is produced by the normal flow of blood through the heart. These are called innocent murmurs. The term innocent murmur simply refers to a heart murmur that is not produced by any actual abnormality in the heart.

Believe it or not, the vast majority of heart murmurs in children are innocent murmurs! This is great news for most families. Statistically speaking, the chance of a heart murmur in a child being innocent is much higher than it being caused by a problem.

Having said all this, it is certainly understandable that families might be concerned when they are told that their child has a heart murmur. There is nothing more precious in a parent's world than their child! To hear that anything might possibly be wrong with your child can be anxiety provoking and even devastating to some parents. Fortunately, more often than not heart murmurs turn out to be innocent.

Posted by Dr. Penn Laird Jr. .