What is a Heart Murmur?
A heart murmur is a sound detected between heartbeats. It is often described as a swishing noise created by blood flowing through your heart valves. Depending on what causes this irregularity, a murmur is classified as either innocent or abnormal.
Diagnosis of a Heart Murmur:
Typically a heart murmur is diagnosed during routine doctor visits. A doctor will listen to each part of a heartbeat, checking for any extra sounds that would indicate the existence of a murmur.
The severity if a heart murmur is determined by how loud the noise is, the kind of sound it is, and by the area of the heart that the sound is emitted from. If it is diagnosed as an innocent murmur, this means the noise heard is simply the blood circulating through the heart’s chambers. They’re common during childhood and often disappear in adulthood. Doctors will also look for addition symptoms indicating there is a more serious heart problem present. These include, shortness of breath during strenuous activity, lightheadedness, a fast or irregular heartbeat, or a fluid buildup in the legs or lungs. A doctor will examine these factors to determine if the murmur is the sign of a heart condition. You may then be referred to a cardiologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of heart conditions. To take a closer look, the following tests could be performed:
- Echocardiogram- a form of ultrasound that can show how well your heart is functioning by turning sound waves into images.
- Electrocardiogram- more commonly known as an EKG or ECG, it shows the electrical activity of your heart by tracing lines onto paper. Each spike and dip is called a wave, and these are closely analyzed for any abnormal activity.
- X-ray- a chest X-ray would be performed in order to show the size and shape of your heart, as well as the position and shape of your large arteries.
- Cardiac catheterization- this procedure checks for any defects that could be present in your heart. It involves the insertion of a thin tube called a catheter into the main artery in your neck, arm or leg. The tube makes it way through the blood vessels of your heart, and a dye is injected. Photos are then taken, and the performance of the heart chambers and valves are thoroughly analyzed as the dye travels through them.
Treatment for Heart Murmurs:
If a doctor diagnoses you with an innocent heart murmur, this indicates your heart is functioning normally and no treatment is required.
The diagnosis of an abnormal murmur would require further treatment. The level of treatment would be determined by what is found to be causing the murmur. In some cases, you could be diagnosed with an abnormal murmur without any other signs that a heart condition is involved. In this scenario, a doctor would continue to monitor your heart with an echocardiogram to ensure the heart remains healthy.
Other heart murmur treatments could involve medications prescribed to lower blood pressure and reduce the stress being put on the heart. In more severe cases, surgery is performed to repair a heart defect or replace a damaged valve. This would improve the health of your heart and restore its functionality.