Heart murmur – You may have been told by a doctor who examines your heart that you have a ‘heart murmur’. A heart murmur is the sound that can be heard via the stethoscope when listening to the heart. It may indicate a potential problem with the heart valves such as a narrowed or leaking heart valve. Alternatively a heart murmur can simply be a benign noise that can be heard in some people. If you have symptoms such as breathlessness or chest pain and you have been told you have a heart murmur it is advisable to seek specialist help quickly.
Heart murmurs are very common in pregnancy because the heart has to work harder to support two separate circulations (the mother’s and the baby’s circulation). However heart conditions can also develop in pregnancy so if you are pregnant and have been told you have a heart murmur it is advisable to get this assessed by making an appointment.
Heart murmurs can also occur if there has been a family history of heart problems – also called congenital heart disease. These are often referred to as a ‘hole-in-the-heart’ but can involve complex problems with the heart. Heart murmurs can also go hand-in-hand with other heart conditions (such as heart failure). Finally, although rare, a previous history of rheumatic fever can also lead to heart murmurs later in life due to thickening and narrowing of the heart valves.
The best test to determine the cause of a heart murmur is an echocardiogram. This test can be undertaken on the same day as your consultation and the results available immediately. If further specialist advice or treatment is required this can also be arranged in the same consultation. Most heart murmurs are thankfully completely benign and of no long-term consequence but it is always advisable to get your heart assessed by a specialist if you have any concerns.