Nonauscultatory clinical criteria are sensitive for cardiac pathology in low-risk paediatric heart murmurs

Healthy children with likely innocent heart murmurs are frequently referred to cardiologists for reassurance. Existing guidelines that advise against these referrals are not consistently followed partly because they involve subjective auscultatory judgements with which many care providers are uncomfortable. Here, we investigate whether clinical criteria with no subjective auscultatory component are sensitive for cardiac pathology.

A retrospective chart review was performed of all new patients seen in our paediatric cardiology clinic for assessment of a murmur from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018. Patients were characterized as “low-risk” if they met all of the following criteria: asymptomatic; normal physical examination other than the murmur; no risk factors for congenital heart disease; and age over 12 months. The primary outcomes were the sensitivity for ruling out pathology and the negative predictive value of the proposed criteria.

Of 915 total patients, 214 met the low-risk criteria. The sensitivity of our criteria for ruling out pathology was 97.2% (95% confidence interval 94.1% to 99.0%) and the negative predictive value was also 97.2% (95% confidence interval 94.0% to 98.7%). Six of the 214 low-risk patients had pathology (2.8%; 95% confidence interval 1.3% to 6.0%), none of which has required intervention since diagnosis. Each of these six children had a murmur that sounded pathological to the auscultating cardiologist.

Basic clinical criteria that do not require auscultation are highly sensitive for ruling out significant cardiac pathology in children over 12 months of age.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Radha Jetty

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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