5 Questions about Heart Murmurs with Pediatric Cardiologist Alaina Kipps, MD

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A tiny heart has a big job in powering a child’s health and well-being for life, but when it’s not making the right sounds, it can make parents very nervous. Alaina Kipps, MD, pediatric cardiologist in our Heart Center, explains that heart murmurs are actually very common and usually not as scary as you would think. Dr. Kipps is the medical director of the cardiology acute care unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at the Stanford School of Medicine.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is any other sound heard between the “lub-dub”, which are normal heart sounds that are made when the heart valves close and open. Other heart sounds can form gallop rhythms or clicks. Murmurs and other extra heart sounds are identified by pediatricians using a stethoscope.

Are heart murmurs common in children?

All children have a heart murmur at some point in their life, however we don’t always hear them because we can’t hold a stethoscope to their chest all day long. These innocent murmurs are normal for children to experience as they develop and most of them will simply go away over time.

Is a heart murmur an indication of something more serious?

In most cases, a heart murmur is not a problem or indicative of anything serious. When a parent comes to me to have their child checked, they usually are nervous and expect the worst news. Most times I’m happy to tell them their child’s heart is healthy and normal.

What should I do if my pediatrician hears any strange sounds coming from my child’s heart?

If your pediatrician is concerned about what he hears through his stethoscope, you should see a pediatric cardiologist. Depending on what the pediatric cardiologist hears, it may be appropriate for an electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or echocardiography (echo) to be performed to get a better understanding of the heart’s rhythm, structure, and function.

Is it safe for kids to play and exercise if they have a heart murmur?

If your pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist is not concerned about your child’s heart murmur, you shouldn’t be either. Encourage your child to play and participate in the activities they love to help keep their heart healthy and pumping strong!

Discover more about our Heart Center or call (650) 721-2121.

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