Section: Barnabas Health Heart Center News

A Guide to Heart Murmurs from the Barnabas Health Heart Centers


What is a heart murmur?

Murmurs are extra or unusual sounds made by blood circulating through the heart's chambers or valves, or through blood vessels near the heart

What causes a heart murmur?

Heart murmurs may be caused by a number of factors or diseases, including:

  • Defective heart valves
  • Holes in the walls of your heart (atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect)
  • Pregnancy (increased blood volume)
  • Fever
  • Anemia (a decrease in the red cells in the blood)

What are the different types of murmurs?

All murmurs are analyzed for pitch, frequency, and duration. They are also graded according to how loud they are (on a scale of one to six, with one being very faint and six being very loud).

Types of murmurs include:

  • Systolic murmur. This occurs during a heart muscle contraction. Systolic murmurs are divided into ejection murmurs (due to blood flow through a narrowed vessel or irregular valve) and regurgitant murmurs (backward blood flow into one of the chambers of the heart).
  • Diastolic murmur. This occurs during heart muscle relaxation between beats. Diastolic murmurs are due to a narrowing (stenosis) of the mitral or tricuspid valves, or regurgitation of the aortic or pulmonary valves.
  • Continuous murmur. This occurs throughout the cardiac cycle.

How is a heart murmur treated?

A heart murmur itself isn't a disease, but it may be the result of an underlying cardiac issue. Many times, murmurs are not serious and require no further treatment. If your doctor identifies that you have a heart murmur, he or she will most likely evaluate you for other symptoms of cardiac disease and suggest some follow-up diagnostic testing.

For a referral to a RWJBarnabas Health cardiac specialist, call 888-724-7123 or visit our online physician directory at

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