If you think you or your child has a heart murmur, make an appointment to see your family doctor. Although most heart murmurs are harmless, it's a good idea to rule out any underlying heart problems that could be serious.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there are any advance preparations. For example, if you're having a certain type of echocardiogram, you may need to fast for several hours before your appointment.
- Write down any symptoms you or your child is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to heart murmurs.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of heart murmurs, heart rhythm problems, heart defects, coronary artery disease, genetic disorders, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes, and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you or your child is taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who comes along with you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Be prepared to discuss diet and exercise habits. If you or your child doesn't already follow a diet or exercise routine, be ready to talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started.
- Write down questions to ask the doctor.
Your time with the doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. For heart murmurs, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of the heart murmur?
- What are other possible causes for the heart murmur?
- What kinds of tests are necessary?
- What's the best treatment or follow-up care?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- How should health conditions other than the heart murmur be managed?
- Are there any dietary or exercise restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- If surgery is necessary, which surgeon do you recommend?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
What to expect from the doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
Jun. 08, 2012
- When did you or your child first have symptoms?
- Have the symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to make your symptoms better?
- Does anything make the symptoms worse?
- Have you ever noticed a bluish discoloration of the skin?
- Do you have shortness of breath? When does this happen?
- Have you ever fainted?
- Have you had chest pain?
- Have you had swelling in your legs?
- How do you feel when you exercise?
- Have you ever used illicit drugs?
- Have you ever had rheumatic fever?
- Does anyone else in the family have a heart murmur or a heart valve problem?
- Chatterjee K. Auscultation of cardiac murmurs. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Feb. 8, 2012.
- Heart murmur. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartmurmur/printall-index.html. Accessed April 12, 2012.
- Furster V, et al., eds. Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed Feb. 7, 2012.
- Frank JE, et al. Evaluation and management of heart murmurs in children. American Family Physician. 2011;84:793.
- Heart murmurs. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiovascularConditionsofChildhood/Heart-Murmurs_UCM_314208_Article.jsp#.T4evW9Vr7To. Accessed April 13, 2012.
- Cardiovascular examination. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/approach_to_the_cardiac_patient/cardiovascular_examination.html. Accessed April 13, 2012.
- Bonno RO, et al. 2008 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2006 guidelines for the management of patients with valvular heart disease. Circulation. 2008;118:e523.
- Your guide to living well with heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/your_guide/yg_livingwell.htm. Accessed April 13, 2012.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 1, 2012.