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Saturday, March 22, 2008

What You Should Know About Heart Murmur

What it is: A sound caused by small amounts of blood leaking from one chamber of the heart to another, which occurs when a valve doesn't close properly. A heart murmur is diagnosed when a doctor hears blood rushing through the heart as it beats, similar to the sound of water rushing through a pipe.

Why it's not necessarily serious: Sometimes a heart murmur doesn't indicate anything other than increased blood flow through the body. For example, blood flow often increases during pregnancy, causing a heart murmur, then returns to normal after the baby is born.

When to worry: Because there are many different types of heart murmurs, it's important for your doctor to determine what's causing it, says Dr. Wiegers, a cardiologist of the Hospital of the university of Pennsylvania. While the majority of murmurs aren't serious, create no symptoms, and require no treatment, there are some more serious causes, such as a valve infection or a blockage, that may require medication or surgery. A cardiac ultrasound or an echocardiogram can determine whether the murmur will need further attention.