Heart murmurs, most of them innocent, are the most common reason for referrals to a pediatric cardiologist. In the evaluation of murmurs, the electrocardiogram and echocardiogram are often included. The purpose of this study was to determine the utility of these examinations in the initial assessment of heart murmurs in children and adolescents. In a prospective series of 161 patients, the clinical diagnosis of heart murmurs by a pediatric cardiologist was compared with that obtained after electrocardiogram and echocardiogram (two-dimensional, M-mode, Doppler, and color-Doppler). On the basis of the clinical diagnosis the patients were classified as having "innocent murmur," "pathologic murmur," or "possible pathologic murmur." A total of 161 patients (51% males), aged 1 month to 17 years (median 3.2 years), were studied. After electrocardiogram, no diagnosis was changed. After echocardiogram, the clinical diagnosis of innocent murmur in 109 patients changed in 2 to pathologic (small ventricular septal defect 1, small atrial septal defect 1); pathologic murmur in 46 changed to innocent in 3 and possible pathologic in 2; and possible pathologic in 6 changed to innocent in 3 and to pathologic in 2. The clinical examination by an experienced pediatric cardiologist is an accurate means of assessing newly referred patients with murmurs. The clinical examination had a sensitivity of 96%, specificity of 95%, positive predictive value of 88%, and negative predictive value of 98%. The electrocardiogram, unlikely to disclose any unsuspected heart disease, may assist in reaching the lesion-specific diagnosis when there is underlying pathology. Echocardiography, although diagnostic when heart disease is suspected, is unnecessary in pediatric patients with clinically diagnosed innocent heart murmurs.

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