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HealthInfo Canterbury

Heart murmurs in children

The term heart murmur can cause unnecessary concern. Murmurs are common and have many different causes. Perfectly normal hearts can produce sounds that may be called murmurs. These sounds are called innocent heart murmurs. Heart abnormalities can also cause murmurs but these sound different to doctors and need further testing.

Innocent heart murmurs

If doctors listen to children's hearts in quiet conditions, they often hear innocent murmurs. These murmurs come and go and vary with breathing, with heart rate, and with the position of the child. Innocent murmurs are louder when the heart is beating faster than usual, such as when your child is anxious or has a temperature.

These murmurs are caused by the sound of blood flowing through different parts of the heart. As children's hearts are smaller and the hearts beat faster than in adults, these noises are more likely to be heard. The murmurs usually disappear later in childhood.

An experienced doctor will recognise the noise of an innocent heart murmur as being different to one caused by a heart defect. Further testing is not needed but sometimes the doctor will ask to listen to the child's heart again when they are well or when they are older.

When you are told that the heart murmur is innocent there is no need for any special investigations or any special precautions.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Paediatrician, Canterbury DHB. Updated September 2016.

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Page reference: 120671

Review key: HIHMC-120671