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Many parents fear the worst when their child is diagnosed with a heart murmur. However, this diagnosis is actually very common. In fact, many children have a heart murmur detected at some point in their life. The most murmurs should not be cause for concern and they do not affect the health of the child.
A heart murmur is nothing more than a soft noise produced by blood as it passes through the heart. Generally, the pediatrician can recognize it by doing a stethoscope auscultation. The heart murmur is the result of an exam, it is not a disease. The pediatrician and pediatric cardiologist can determine if the murmur is functional (meaning the child is healthy) or if there is a specific heart problem.
The murmur can be detected in various circumstances. In newborns, when performing the first examination, the neonatologist may perceive a murmur, which disappears in hours or days, and which only reflects the adjustment that the baby's circulation makes when changing from the conditions present in the mother's breast to those existing abroad. It is also possible that, at this age, the murmur is caused by a small abnormality, which can heal spontaneously in the following weeks or months.
Murmurs in children can be heard for the first time in a routine visit to the pediatrician or during an infectious disease, which occurs with fever or, well, in a medical examination before entering a sports club.
Although the word murmur tends to be very frightening to parents, the murmur is almost always a normal phenomenon and, when the child does not present other associated symptoms, it is due to the expansion of the circulating volume of the blood in periods of rapid growth. And it is that when the volume of blood per minute that passes through the heart is greater, it causes turbulence, which can be heard with the stethoscope.
Due to the common misconception that all heart murmurs are serious, it is important for parents to understand what type of murmur their child has and whether it needs further evaluation.
A functional murmur is the sound of normal blood flow, circulating through a normal heart in a normal way. When the child has a fever, the blood circulation speeds up even more and the murmur can become louder and more easily heard.
Murmurs heard in these circumstances are called innocent, functional, or transient murmurs. This murmur is the product of a normal and healthy heart, It can appear and disappear throughout childhood, and usually disappears on its own as the child grows and does not pose any health risk.
They are the murmurs that reflect a heart disease and originate at the site where the heart abnormality is located. These murmurs are called organic and are permanent. When a child has this type of murmur, they usually (but not always) have other problems: sweat a lot, don't grow properly, breathe quickly, tire easily, or turn purple when crying or straining.
To decide whether the murmur is functional or organic, the doctor will rely on the result of a chest X-ray to assess the size of the heart and, in case of doubt, will turn to the pediatric cardiologist, who will add an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram to his assessment that provides complete and accurate information on the structure and function of the heart.
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