What is a heart murmur?
A heart murmur describes an extra sound that can be heard in addition to the normal beats and can only be heard using a stethoscope. The sounds are made by the blood flowing through the heart. Heart murmurs are common in the newborn period.
Does a heart murmur mean my child has a heart problem?
The term heart murmur is not a diagnosis of an illness or disorder. Although a small number of murmurs can sometimes be a sign that there is a problem with the heart, the majority of babies never have a heart problem.
What happens next?
If the doctor, neonatal practitioner or midwife who examined your baby feels that your baby requires immediate attention they will remain in hospital. They may either remain with you on the maternity ward or be transferred to the Neonatal Unit with the reasons for this, and a plan of care, explained to you.
If your baby is otherwise well, they will be discharged home with you but will be seen in the paediatric outpatient clinic within three weeks. If at the outpatient appointment the murmur is no longer heard, they will be discharged back to your general practitioner (GP).
If a murmur is still present we will arrange for your baby to have a heart ultrasound scan called echocardiogram. This may be carried out on the same day or you may be given an appointment to come back on a different day.
What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a similar sort of scan to those used during pregnancy. It is painless and looks at the structures of the heart and how well it is functioning.
When we go home, should I watch out for anything?
Most babies discharged home with a murmur will remain well. However we ask that you pay particular attention to the following:
- Breathlessness – is your baby too breathless to feed?
- Sweaty when feeding
- Poor feeding
- Blue colour of hands, feet and lips or the skin becoming mottled (red in some places and pale in others)
Although these symptoms do not necessarily mean there is a heart problem, urgent medical advice should be sought as it may be a sign of other problems unrelated to the heart murmur.
What should I do if I have any concerns before my clinic appointment?
You can get medical advice from:
- Your GP
- NHS Direct. You can call 111 or visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
- Attend the nearest Accident & Emergency Department
- Dial 999 for an ambulance
If you need to seek medical advice it is helpful if you tell them that your baby has been identified as having a heart murmur.
Why is it beneficial to detect a heart murmur early?
As with all conditions, the earlier a heart problem is identified, the sooner investigations and if necessary, treatment can start.
What are the risks of having a heart murmur?
A heart murmur is used as a screening aid to identify a serious heart problem. However the absence of a heart murmur does not exclude a heart problem.
Are there alternative treatments?
There are no alternatives as all babies born in our hospital must have their hearts listened to during the first examination. If a heart murmur is still heard during the outpatient appointment, an echocardiogram can help doctors decide on the plan of care / treatment for your baby.
If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to speak to a doctor or a member of the nursing / midwifery staff.
Rainforest Ward, Diana Princess of Wales Hospital, Grimsby: 03033 304477
Children’s Services Community Nursing Team – Grimsby: 03033 304509
Disney Ward, Scunthorpe General Hospital, Scunthorpe: 03033 302553
Children’s Services Community Nursing Team – Scunthorpe: 03033 306153
Date of Issue: June, 2021
Review Period: June, 2024