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Hearing the words "heart murmur" from your pediatrician may be scary at first but, in most cases, it's no reason to lose sleep. According to the American Heart Association, many babies can be diagnosed with an "innocent" heart murmur (one not resulting from heart disease) at some point. A murmur is an extra sound  -- usually a faint gurgling noise  -- in the heart. While it's possible that the sound is a sign of something serious, about 95 percent of murmurs are meaningless, says Arnold Strauss, M.D., chairman of the department of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in Nashville.

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  • Symptoms} {SECTION}] You won't know that your baby has an innocent heart murmur  -- most do not cause any symptoms. About 5 percent of murmurs are not innocent (they're called pathologic) and may be accompanied by excessive sweating, slow weight gain, fast breathing, bluish skin, or feeding difficulties.

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  • Diagnosis} {SECTION}] Murmurs are detected when a doctor, using a stethoscope, hears an extra sound in the heart. Depending on the intensity, location, and frequency of the murmur, he can determine its type. If your pediatrician hears signs of a pathologic murmur, he may refer you to a pediatric cardiologist for further evaluation.

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  • Causes} {SECTION}] Most innocent murmurs have no known cause, says Christopher Snyder, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and director of pediatric electrophysiology at Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven. Pathologic murmurs are caused by a defect in the heart or artery, such as a narrow or leaky valve or hole in the heart. One of the most common pathologic murmurs is ventricular septal defect (VSD), which is a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart that causes a loud murmur. Frequently a VSD will close spontaneously by itself before a child's second birthday. If it doesn't, surgery may be required.

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  • Treatment} {SECTION}] Innocent murmurs don't require treatment. Many pathologic murmurs go away with age, others remain throughout a person's lifetime without causing any problems, while a small number require surgery or medication. The best thing you can do is to treat your child normally, says Dr. Strauss. "Children with heart murmurs can do anything that other kids can do." For more information, visit the [XREF {http://www.children} {Children Heart Institiute website} {_blank}].
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