What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is a whooshing noise heard through a stethoscope caused by blood passing through the heart. Although this is often a normal finding, in which case it is called an “innocent murmur”, it may be a sign of a problem with the heart.

Murmurs are common in newborn babies as changes normally take place in the heart after the baby is born. They tend to disappear as the baby grows. In some cases, a murmur may be caused by blood crossing a hole in the heart, by a heart valve that is too narrow or if there is a leak in a heart valve.

What happens now?

If your baby was found to have a murmur at less than 24 hours old, they will be reexamined to see if the murmur has gone away by itself, in which case generally no further tests are needed.

If a murmur is present at more than one day old, a senior paediatrician will check your baby and may ask you more questions. They may organise for your baby to have a scan of their heart.

What happens if your baby needs a scan?

An ultrasound scan of your baby’s heart, called an echocardiogram, may be organised before you leave hospital or later as an out-patient. This shows the structure, function, and blood flow of the heart to see if there is an underlying problem. It is a straightforward test, like ultrasound scans carried out during pregnancy, and does not harm your baby. Your baby may need treatment, further tests or follow-up with a specialist heart doctor if an abnormality is found on the scan.

What to look out for

Most babies who have a murmur remain well; however, you should seek advice from your midwife, health visitor or GP if your baby has any of the following:

  • Sweating or difficulty breathing, particularly during feeds
  • Blue hands, feet and lips or the skin becomes mottled (patchy with irregular colours)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Swelling of the legs, tummy or around the eyes
  • Looks pale
  • Poor feeding or growth.

If your baby seems seriously unwell ring 999 or go to A&E.

Do you have any further questions?

If you have further questions, please contact the Royal Free Hospital paediatric secretaries on 020 7830 2211. A paediatric secretary will arrange for a doctor to call you back.