Heart Murmurs |Symptoms and Causes| MedStar Health

Your heartbeat is the sound of your heart valves closing. If there is a problem with your valves, blood may flow abnormally through or around them, causing a whooshing or swishing sound between or after heartbeats. Your doctor can hear this turbulent blood flow using a stethoscope.


They can be present at birth, known as a congenital heart defect or develop later in life. They often are harmless, but they can be a sign of underlying heart valve disease or damage.

The most common causes are:

  • Anemia, or not having enough red blood cells

  • Atrial or ventricular septal defect, a hole in a wall separating the chambers of the heart

  • Hyperthyroidism, a thyroid disorder  in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a thickening of the heart muscle

  • Valve stenosis, a stiff valve that limits the forward flow of blood

  • Valve regurgitation, a backward flow of blood because a heart valve doesn’t close completely


Diagnosing a potential heart or vascular condition is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Your doctor will likely use diagnostic imaging techniques such as an echocardiogram or a heart CT scan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


If there is no underlying condition causing your heart murmur, you may not require treatment, but if you do require treatment, our heart and vascular teams work with other specialties to develop and implement individualized plans to treat you. This could include medication or more advanced surgical treatments.

Balloon Valvuloplasty

Balloon valvuloplasty improves blood flow through the heart to the lungs and body by opening a stiff heart valve.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive option to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly and blocks the flow of blood.

Valve sparing or valve preserving surgery (reimplantation surgery)

Valve sparing surgery is a procedure to repair an aortic root aneurysm without replacing the aortic valve.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.