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Venous hum is a benign vascular phenomenon where a slight buzzing noise can be heard in the vessels in the upper chest and neck. Careful evaluation can distinguish it from harmful conditions like heart murmurs caused by certain diseases. A note may be made in the patient’s chart to make other care providers aware of the fact that the sound has been noted and evaluated so they don’t waste additional time making a diagnosis. It is especially common in children, and can appear in as many as one in five children at some point during childhood.
This sound occurs as a result of turbulence in the blood vessels, which narrow around the collarbone and thus can become more noisy in this region. A true venous hum generates continuous sound because the blood is constantly moving through the vessels. This differentiates it from problems originating in the heart, which tend to follow the cycle of the heartbeat. Some other diagnostic tricks can be used to rule out other continuous murmurs.
One option is for a care provider to gently place a finger over the jugular vein, which should cause the sound to stop. Turning the head should also result in a change in the quality of sound. This illustrates that the venous hum is caused by the turbidity of blood in the vessels, and not by other factors. If a care provider has concerns, the patient may be referred to a cardiologist for evaluation, just to make absolutely certain the condition is benign.
Medical imaging studies can trade the movement of blood in the vessels and the heart to check for obstructions and abnormalities. Care providers can also perform a patient interview, draw blood samples, and use a stress test to see how the patient’s body responds to strain. These tools can be used to confirm a diagnosis of venous hum or rule out other possible causes if there is a reason to be concerned. Such testing may be frightening for patients and family, but is often ordered as a safety measure when the doctor is fairly certain of the diagnosis, which is important to keep in mind.
The biggest concern with a venous hum is that it might be mistaken for something more serious. Once it has been identified, it can be a good idea to make sure it is noted in the patient’s chart. If the patient carries a medic alert card or other medical documentation, the venous hum can be discussed to make sure emergency services providers know the noise is normal and has been evaluated. This can reduce the risk of concerns about a patient’s heart health, or worries that a patient might experience problems during anesthesia because of abnormalities noted in a quick physical examination before emergency surgery.