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.
The heart has four 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 doctor may describe a murmur:
When a murmur is more noticeable, the doctor may be able to feel it with the palm of the hand over the heart.
Things the doctor will look for in the exam include:
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:
A doctor or nurse can listen to your heart sounds by placing a stethoscope over your chest. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
The doctor 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:
Chest sounds - murmurs; Heart sounds - abnormal; Murmur - innocent; Innocent murmur; Systolic heart murmur; Diastolic heart murmur
Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 50.
Sabatine MS, Cannon CP. The history and physical examination: An evidence-based approach. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 12.
Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease. Circulation. 2014;129(23):2440-92.
Updated 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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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