Heart murmurs are abnormal heartbeats and sounds that occur as blood is pumped into or out of the heart. Medical professionals can conduct a series of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of murmurs, which can include congenital heart defects, heart disease, high blood pressure, or glandular problems. In most cases, murmurs are found to be innocent; they are not indicative of health problems and do not require treatment. If an underlying problem is discovered, a team of specialists usually can consider different treatment options. Common heart murmur treatment procedures include medication to stabilize heart activity and blood pressure, and surgery to correct valve problems.
Most heart murmurs are first detected during routine physical examinations or diagnostic procedures for other health problems. After hearing a murmur with a stethoscope, the doctor will usually recommend that the patient receive a chest x-ray and electrocardiograph (ECG) to check for signs of heart problems. If no abnormalities are found in structure or function, the condition is considered innocent and no heart murmur treatment is needed. When x-ray and ECG results indicate the presence of underlying problems, further tests typically are needed to pinpoint the cause of irregular heart murmurs.
The heart valves and nearby arteries may be found to contain congenital defects, which are structural problems that affect blood flow and heartbeat. Doctors may decide to treat a defect that narrows or blocks an artery or vein with a catheter procedure. A tiny catheter can be inserted into a vein, guided to the heart with the aid of an echocardiograph machine, and signaled to expand inside the afflicted valve to open it. The catheter is then removed and the heart monitored to ensure that the valve stays open. Some large defects need to be surgically repaired in open-heart procedures.
Some people experience heart murmurs because of a type of heart-valve disease that may be caused by atherosclerosis, an infection, or an unknown factor. Heart murmur treatment in the case of valve disease usually entails administering drugs to combat infections or help expand blood vessels. In addition, some problems can be cleared with catheter procedures similar to the one used for congenital defects. A valve that is severely damaged or blocked may need to be surgically removed and replaced with either a donor valve or an artificial device.
Heart murmurs often occur before a person develops heart-valve disease. Murmurs can indicate high blood pressure, anemia, or an overactive thyroid gland. Medications can often be prescribed as a form of heart murmur treatment for such conditions. A patient may be given a type of drug called an antiarrhythmic to help stabilize the heartbeat and an anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting. Thanks to advances in diagnostic screening and preventive medications, most types of heart murmur treatment are highly effective at preserving heart health.