Raising Healthy Kids: A closer look at heart murmurs

PHILADELPHIA - November 6, 2013

She weighed just 14 pounds

Her mother Vanessa says at first, doctors thought she was just small.

Then, during a serious bout with pneumonia, they noticed something more - a heart murmur - an extra sound in Charlotte's heartbeat that could be heard through the doctor's stethoscope.

"They did an echocardiogram and discovered she had a huge hole between the atria (upper chambers) of her heart," says Vanessa.

There was too much blood crossing the hole, with extra blood causing the right side of her heart to grow. It also caused too much blood flow to go to the lungs.

Dr. Aaron Dorfman, a cardiologist with Children's Hospital Care Network in New Jersey, says heart murmurs are very common.

"About half of kids have a murmur at some point in their life," says Dr. Dorfman.

They generally appear at 3 times - shortly after babies are born, when they reach school age, or 8 to 10 years later, in their teens.

Most murmurs are harmless.

"Many of these just go away over time, as they should," says Dr. Dorfman.

But doctors do watch for a change in the sound, a lack of growth - like Charlotte, or other signs.

"Kids who are getting more exhausted, more short of breath with activity, kids who just can't seem to keep up with kids their age, kids that are passing out," says Dr. Dorfman.

He says most problems can be treated with medication, or minimally invasive procedures.

Charlotte needed surgery to close the hole in her heart.

But since then, it's been smooth sailing.

"She's much more energetic, she eats better, she sleeps better, she's gained weight," says mom. "She plays soccer, does gymnastics, and she used to dance," she continues.

Doctor Dorfman says children with heart murmurs actually needing treatment can be treated successfully, with no restrictions on their activities. And most grow up to be healthy adults. But if a child has a congenital heart defect, they should be followed by a specialist through-out their life.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.