What are murmurs?

Murmurs are sounds that are perceived when the Cardiology physician auscultate the patient’s heart with the stethoscope. This sound is produced because the blood circulates at high speed, causing turbulence and vibrations that are transmitted to the chest wall and can be heard through the stethoscope.

Causes of murmurs

The production of murmurs may be caused by one or more factors:

  • Increased blood flow across an orifice (such as a normal valve): this is the main cause of innocent murmurs.
  • Blood flow through a narrow orifice (such as a narrow or stetonic valve).
  • Regurgitation of blood: blood does not leak well because of an insufficient valve or a congenital defect.
  • Vibration of a free structure within the heart (such as a chordae tendineae).

It should be noted that murmurs do not necessarily mean heart disease. In other words, murmurs are not a disease, but a sound, and it is important to keep this in mind to avoid false alarms.

Innocent murmurs

Innocent murmurs, also called innocent or non-pathological murmurs, are those that do not signify heart disease. These types of murmurs occur especially in children, in whom they are easier to detect with the stethoscope because the distance between the stethoscope and the heart is shorter and the circulation is faster.

Murmurs may be more audible or intense when the child’s heart rate is faster, for example, when the child is excited, exercising, frightened or has a fever.

As the child gets older, the innocent murmur becomes harder to hear, to the point of disappearing in some cases as the child gets older.

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In the case of adults, innocent murmurs affect pregnant women more frequently, since there is an overload of blood volume and the blood circulates through the valves at a higher rate. Anemia associated with pregnancy can also facilitate the appearance of murmurs, although they usually disappear after delivery. Other possible causes of innocent murmurs in adults may be hyperthyroidism or sustained tachycardias.

What to do if innocent murmurs are detected

First of all, if the specialist detects murmurs on auscultation, he/she will assess the patient’s medical history and background to confirm that they are innocent murmurs, i.e., that they do not signify any problem for the heart.

In some cases, especially in children under two years of age or with a family history of anxiety, the study is completed with an echocardiogram, i.e. an ultrasound of the heart that confirms that the murmurs do not reflect any heart disease.

Thus, if the heart is confirmed to be healthy (as in most cases), no further check-ups are necessary, as the murmurs pose no threat to the patient’s health. In the case of children, they can run, jump and play without any problem and no medication or special care is needed.