A heart murmur is a blowing, whooshing, or rasping sound heard during a heartbeat. The sound is caused by turbulent (rough) blood flow through the heart valves or near the heart.
Chest sounds - murmurs; Heart sounds - abnormal; Murmur - innocent; Innocent murmur; Systolic heart murmur; Diastolic heart murmur
The heart has 4 chambers:
The heart has valves that close with each heartbeat, causing blood to flow in only one direction. The valves are located between the chambers.
Murmurs can happen for many reasons, such as:
There are several ways in which your health care provider may describe a murmur:
When a murmur is more noticeable, the provider may be able to feel it with the palm of the hand over the heart.
Things the provider will look for in the exam include:
Many heart murmurs are harmless. These types of murmurs are called innocent murmurs. They will not cause any symptoms or problems. Innocent murmurs DO NOT need treatment.
Other heart murmurs may indicate an abnormality in the heart. These abnormal murmurs can be caused by:
Significant murmurs in children are more likely to be caused by:
Multiple murmurs may result from a combination of heart problems.
Children often have murmurs as a normal part of development. These murmurs DO NOT need treatment. They may include:
A provider can listen to your heart sounds by placing a stethoscope over your chest. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
The provider may ask you to squat, stand, or hold your breath while bearing down or gripping something with your hands to listen to your heart.
The following tests may be done:
Fang JC, O'Gara PT. The history and physical examination: An evidence-based approach. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 11.
Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 51.
Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease. Circulation. 2014;129(23):2440-2492. PMID: 24589852 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24589852.
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.