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Neonatal murmurs: are senior house officers good enough?
  1. K F M Farrer1,
  2. J M Rennie2
  1. 1Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, St George’s Hospital, Tooting, London SW17 0QT, UK
  2. 2Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Farrer, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, St George’s Hospital, Tooting, London SW17 0QT, UK;


Aim: To show that, given appropriate guidelines, senior house officers (SHOs) have the clinical skills required to assess neonatal murmurs.

Methods: Neonatal SHOs identified babies with a cardiac murmur at routine neonatal examination. The SHOs assessed whether the murmur was significant or innocent and decided between immediate further assessment or echocardiogram as an outpatient.

Results: A total of 112 babies had murmurs at routine neonatal examination. The incidence of cardiac murmurs was 13.8 per 1000. Twelve babies were referred for immediate further assessment. Eleven had structurally abnormal hearts. One had a normal heart with pulmonary hypoplasia. One hundred babies were referred, and 78 attended for outpatient follow up. Of these, the SHO assessed nine babies as having a significant murmur and 69 as having an innocent murmur. Twenty two babies failed to attend for follow up; all were thought to have innocent murmurs. Of the nine murmurs assessed as significant, four were confirmed as such and five were found to be innocent. Of the 91 murmurs assessed as innocent, 63 were proven to be innocent, six had abnormalities on echocardiogram, and 22 defaulted to follow up. Five of the serious murmurs were small ventricular septal defects, which had resolved by 6 months of age; the other had mild pulmonary stenosis. None of these babies were clinically symptomatic at outpatient review.

Conclusion: Given appropriate guidelines, SHOs have the skills to assess the significance of, and decide on appropriate management for, neonatal murmurs. Electrocardiograms and chest radiographs are not necessary.

  • heart
  • cardiac
  • murmur
  • assessment
  • senior house officers
  • ECG, electrocardiogram
  • CXR, chest radiograph
  • CHD, congenital heart disease
  • SHO, senior house officer
  • VSD, ventricular septal defect
  • PDA, patent ductus arteriosus
  • “PBS”, mild pulmonary branch stenosis

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