Congenital heart disease is present in almost 1% of live births and despite current progress in prenatal screening a significant percentage has delayed diagnosis or remain undiagnosed. A cardiac murmur may be the first or unique clinical sign of congenital heart disease in childhood, however, less than 1% of auscultated murmurs are of an organic cause.
Distinguishing between an innocent and a pathologic murmur can be challenging and the experience of the examiner is crucial for identifying the distinctive properties of an innocent murmur. Timely diagnosis of underlying cardiovascular pathology is of great significance so that prompt management is provided and morbidity or mortality are restricted. Of similar importance is the avoidance of unnecessary anxiety for the parents and unreasonable referrals to Paediatric Cardiologists. Indications for referral include a medical history suggestive of a cardiac abnormality, such as the presence of relevant symptoms, the identification of abnormal findings on clinical examination, auscultatory findings suggestive of an organic murmur, and very young patient age. ECG and a chest X-ray are not usually part of the diagnostic approach of a child with a cardiac murmur, as they do not increase the success rate of diagnosing heart disease, as compared to a detailed medical history accompanied by a thorough physical examination.
In conclusion, the recognition of suspicious distinctive features of cardiac murmurs is crucial and requires skills based on sufficient training and experience.
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