Heart Murmur: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Cardiology specialists define heart murmur as an abnormal sound that can be perceived when auscultating the heart with a stethoscope. It is similar to a whisper that appears synchronously with the heartbeat and is usually asymptomatic, being mostly a casual finding in a routine medical examination.

It translates an alteration in the blood flow inside the heart; in most cases it is usually a benign process, very common in children in situations such as fever or physical exertion, but sometimes it can be the first manifestation of a cardiac problem so it is always advisable to be evaluated by a specialist.

Why does a heart murmur occur?

The heart has four chambers (two atria and two ventricles) and at the exit of each chamber there is a valve whose mission is to make the blood circulate with a unique direction and direction.

Under normal conditions two sounds are heard during each heartbeat, the first represents the closing of the mitral and tricuspid valves and the second the closing of the aortic and pulmonary valves. The opening and closing of the valves may be altered, either by some alteration at birth, by aging or by some transient infection, and the turbulence of blood flow at that point may be detected as a murmur.

On other occasions, it represents an abnormal communication between two cavities or between the main arteries. Some situations such as pregnancy, hyperthyroidism, fever or anemia can physiologically increase the activity of the heart, which can sometimes also be seen as a transient murmur.

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How murmurs are studied

Cardiac auscultation is often sufficient to differentiate between a pathological murmur and a functional murmur. The characteristics of the murmur (such as its location, irradiation, duration, intensity, quality, morphology, modification with certain postures or breathing) are the first diagnostic approach during the study.

Doppler echocardiography is the technique of choice when a pathological murmur is suspected. Ultrasound can assess the cavities, study the real-time movement of the valves, measure the direction and flow of blood and visualize abnormal communications; it is a simple, risk-free test that can be indicated in both infants and pregnant women.

Electrocardiogram and chest X-ray may also be useful as complementary tests in the study of a murmur.

Treatment of heart murmurs

Functional or innocent murmurs, which are very common in children, do not require treatment or cause symptoms and usually disappear in adulthood, nor do they require restriction of physical activity or lifestyle changes.

Diseases of the heart valves or inter-chamber communications may require medical or surgical treatment in the most severe cases, so a specialist should be consulted and individual follow-up should be performed.