An innocent heart murmur is a variation in heart sound that is not associated with any increased risks or medical problems for the patient. Although people often associate heart murmurs with danger, in the case of an innocent murmur, the condition is harmless and will often come and go over time. Many people have them at some point as children, and they resolve by adulthood. Common causes of innocent heart murmurs include small variations in the structures around the heart, pregnancy, and high fever.
A doctor will be able to hear an innocent heart murmur during an examination. In addition to the expected heart sounds, the patient may have a wooshing or swishing noise. During the examination, the doctor will ask about symptoms associated with more serious heart murmurs, like shortness of breath and fatigue. Usually, the doctor can tell a murmur is innocent from the sound and the patient's answers to questions, but imaging studies of the heart and electocardiograms can be ordered as well to collect more information.
A person with an innocent heart murmur can experience strange heart sounds after exercise or in response to stress, but they are not dangerous. Activity levels do not need to be decreased or altered and patients do not need to follow any special dietary recommendations or take medications. Commonly, the murmur is the result of turbulence in the blood flow, like in pregnancy, where blood volume decreases, and during heavy exercise, when the heart is working hard to pump blood to the extremities and provide the muscles with the oxygen they need.
When a doctor diagnoses an innocent heart murmur, information can be provided about the nature of the condition, and it will be noted in the patient's chart so other care providers know it has been identified and evaluated. In families with a history of heart conditions, it can be alarming to hear about an innocent heart murmur, but it is important to be aware that the patient will be carefully examined for any signs of malignancy or complications to confirm the innocence of the murmur.
People who know they have innocent heart murmurs may want to mention it to new doctors or people like medical providers responding to an emergency so they know the sound is normal and has been noted and discussed. This can help allay concerns when people are treating a patient for the first time or providing care under adverse conditions, like in a medical emergency.