Heart murmurs

Definition

A heart murmur is a blowing, whooshing, or rasping sound heard during a heartbeat. The sound is caused by turbulent (rough) blood flow through the heart valves or near the heart.

Considerations

The heart has 4 chambers:

The heart has valves that close with each heartbeat, causing blood to flow in only one direction. The valves are located between the chambers.

Murmurs can happen for many reasons, such as:

There are several ways in which your health care provider may describe a murmur:

When a murmur is more noticeable, the provider may be able to feel it with the palm of the hand over the heart. This is called a "thrill".

Things the provider will look for in the exam include:

Causes

Many heart murmurs are harmless. These types of murmurs are called innocent murmurs. They will not cause any symptoms or problems. Innocent murmurs DO NOT need treatment.

Other heart murmurs may indicate an abnormality in the heart. These abnormal murmurs can be caused by:

Significant murmurs in children are more likely to be caused by:

Multiple murmurs may result from a combination of heart problems.

Children often have murmurs as a normal part of development. These murmurs DO NOT need treatment. They may include:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

A provider can listen to your heart sounds by placing a stethoscope on your chest. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

The provider may ask you to squat, stand, or hold your breath while bearing down or gripping something with your hands to listen to your heart.

The following tests may be done:


Review Date: 5/16/2018
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.