COVID-19 Update:Learn more about how we are protecting our patients, families and staff, as well as other important facts about COVID-19.
Pediatric Heart Murmurs
What is a heart murmur?
Murmurs are sounds made by blood circulating through the heart's chambers or valves, or through blood vessels near the heart.
Heart murmurs may be caused by a number of factors or diseases, including the following:
- Defective heart valves
- Holes in the heart walls
- Surgical repair of congenital (present at birth) heart defects
- Anemia (a decrease in the red cells in the blood)
Your child's physician will evaluate a murmur based on several factors. Murmurs are analyzed for pitch, loudness and duration. They also are graded according to their intensity (on a scale of one to six, with one being very faint and six being very loud).
Types of murmurs include the following:
- Systolic murmur. A heart murmur that occurs during a heart muscle contraction. Systolic murmurs are divided into ejection murmurs (due to blood flow through a narrowed vessel or irregular valve) and regurgitant murmurs.
- Diastolic murmur. A heart murmur that occurs during heart muscle relaxation between beats. Diastolic murmurs are due to a narrowing of the mitral or tricuspid valves, or regurgitation of the aortic or pulmonary valves.
- Continuous murmur. A heart murmur that occurs throughout the cardiac cycle. Murmurs related to a congenital (present at birth) heart defect or other problem involving the heart structures will be heard the loudest in the area of the chest where the problem occurs.
Not all heart murmurs are symptoms of heart disease. Sometimes, a murmur may be heard in a normal child who has a fever or who is anemic; these murmurs often go away when the underlying problem is treated.
Some children have what is known as an innocent murmur. These murmurs are not related to congenital heart defects, and usually resolve by the time a child reaches adulthood. If your child's physician hears an innocent murmur, he/she may want to perform additional tests to ensure a heart defect is not present. A child with an innocent murmur can live a normal life and be as active as any other healthy child.
Learn about treatment
Cardiology Treatment at Children's National Hospital
The pediatric heart experts at Children’s National in Washington, D.C., provide advanced care for unborn babies, children and young adults with heart conditions. Discover more about the treatment we offer.
Help Kids and Make a Difference
Invest in future cures for some of life's most devastating diseases. Give today to help more children grow up stronger.
Director, Quality Outcomes in Cardiology
Director, Kawasaki Disease Program
Director, Cardiology Resident Education
Medical Unit Director, Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg
Emeritus Chief, Cardiac Surgery
Senior Investigator, Center for Neuroscience Research
Our expert pediatric heart team, including more than 40 subspecialties, offer advanced heart care and excellent outcomes for thousands of children every year.
The pediatric heart experts at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., provide advanced care for unborn babies, children and young adults with heart conditions.