“Your child is very healthy and their exam is normal…except for a heart murmur.” No matter how I phrase it, telling a parent their child has a heart murmur always feels like I’m delivering bad news. As a medical student, I thought hearing a murmur was an incredible feat and that I would seldom have the opportunity to hear one. Boy was I wrong.
It is estimated that 33-75% of children will, at some time, have an innocent murmur recognized on exam between the ages of 1 and 14 years. Compare this to the mere 1% of children who have a congenital heart condition that may present with a heart murmur on exam. Despite the overwhelming majority of innocent murmurs, it is still very scary to hear that your child has something that isn’t “normal” on their heart exam. I imagine the questions which must immediately race through a parent’s mind: What is a murmur? How does my pediatrician know my child’s murmur is innocent and not a serious heart condition? What do we do now? Do we need to see a heart specialist (known as a pediatric cardiologist)?