A heart murmur is an unusual whooshing or swishing sound heard between heartbeats. Heart murmurs may be harmless or abnormal, and may be caused by a number of factors or diseases.
Harmless heart murmurs, also called innocent murmurs, can happen when blood flows more rapidly than normal through the heart, such as during exercise, pregnancy, or rapid growth in children. Harmless murmurs may not cause symptoms and do not require treatment.
Abnormal heart murmurs may be a sign of a more serious heart condition, such as a congenital heart defect that is present since birth, or heart valve disease. Depending on the heart condition causing the abnormal murmurs, the murmurs may be associated with symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, bluish skin, or a chronic cough.
Why Choose Cooper for Heart Murmur Treatment
Our internationally renowned team of cardiologists offers world-class heart care at the only academic health system in South Jersey. As faculty members of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, our physicians also teach the next generation of doctors. As a result, our patients have access to the latest innovations, the most advanced technology, and the highest quality of care.
Types of Heart Murmurs
All heart murmurs are analyzed for location, pitch, frequency, and duration, and are also graded according to how loud they are on a scale of 1 to 6. A grade 1 murmur is very faint, while a grade 6 is very loud.
Types of murmurs include:
- Systolic murmur. This happens when the heart muscle contracts. Systolic murmurs are divided into two categories: ejection murmurs, which occur when blood flows through a narrowed vessel or irregular valve, and regurgitant murmurs, which occur when blood flows backward into one of the chambers of the heart.
- Diastolic murmur. This happens when the heart muscle relaxes between beats. Diastolic murmurs are caused by regurgitation of the aortic or pulmonary valves, or by a narrowing (stenosis) of the mitral or tricuspid valves.
- Continuous murmur. This occurs throughout the heartbeat.
Diagnosing and Treating Heart Murmurs
If a heart murmur is detected, your doctor will listen to the loudness, location and timing of your murmur to find out whether it is harmless or a sign of a more serious condition.
If your doctor thinks you may have a more serious condition, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist, or a doctor who specializes in the heart. The cardiologist may have you do other tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram to look for heart rhythm or structural problems and see how well your heart is working.
A heart murmur itself does not require treatment. If it is caused by a more serious heart condition, your doctor may recommend treatment for that heart condition. Treatment may include medicines, cardiac catheterization, or surgery. The outlook and treatment for abnormal heart murmurs depend on the type and severity of the heart condition that is causing the murmur.