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Ask the Expert:

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Kathleen M. Finta, M.D.
Pediatric cardiologist

Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic locations in Marshfield, Wausau, Green Bay and Rhinelander

Question: My child has a heart murmur. Is that dangerous?

​​The most common heart condition I see in children under the age of 10 is a heart murmur, an extra sound in the heart usually caused by the vibration of heart tissue.

About 50 percent of children have them, and in all but 1 to 2 percent of cases, these murmurs are benign.

It’s my responsibility to make sure the sound is not coming from serious structural defects such as holes between the chambers of the heart, or heart valves that are too narrow.

Most murmurs cause no problems as the child ages. We just need to continue monitoring them.

When the structural defects are large, we often need an intervention like medications or even surgery to correct them.

If surgery is needed, children generally recover quickly and are back to their active and normal lives within a few weeks.

I can usually just use my ears and a stethoscope to evaluate a heart murmur. Sometimes we do further tests, such as electrocardiograms and ultrasound of the heart, to confirm our diagnosis.

Many of my patients are referred by primary care physicians who can hear a murmur but are not comfortable deciding if it is innocent or needs further evaluation by a specialist.

​Marshfield Clinic provides children's cardiology care​ in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location.​​