Wellington Children's Hospital
What is a heart murmur?
When the valves close in the heart, they make a noise. “Murmur” is a medical word to describe extra noises coming from the heart. Normally these noises are of no significance, and occur in the normal heart, but your GP has referred you to a paediatrician (children’s doctor) or paediatric cardiologist (children’s heart doctor) to make sure that the murmur is not being caused by a problem with the heart. The most common heart problems causing a murmur are minor, and many require no treatment.
When will my child be seen?
A child with a heart murmur who is otherwise healthy will usually be seen within three months. Your GP may request an earlier referral. Symptoms suggestive of a heart problem requiring earlier referral include: pale or blue episodes (especially blue lips or tongue); shortness of breath; and, in infants, poor weight gain and breathlessness or sweating during feeds. You should see your child’s GP if any of these symptoms develop, even if a referral for a murmur has already been made.
What will happen at the appointment?
Your child will be seen at an outpatient clinic in hospital. Sometimes tests are done at the clinic before seeing the doctor. These may include:
- ECG (electrocardiogram): stickers are placed on your child’s ankles and wrists and on the chest. Leads are then attached to these to record the electrical activity of the heart. The child must lie still for one minute whilst this test is done.
- chest x-ray
- blood pressure measurement
- pulse oximetry: a small probe is placed over the end of the finger to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood
- echocardiography: an ultrasound probe is held over the heart to give a picture of the heart much like the ultrasound scan used during pregnancy to give a picture of the unborn baby. Your child needs to lie still for 15-20 minutes during this test. If your child is too unsettled, a later appointment may be made for the test to be done under sedation (medication is given to make your child feel sleepy).
Because of delays whilst waiting to have these tests done there may be a delay of an hour or two before you see the doctor.