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West J Med. 1992 April; 156(4): 392–398.
PMCID: PMC1003278

Clues in diagnosing congenital heart disease.


A number of practical office and bedside clues to cardiac disease in infants and children have been passed on through the years. They relate to the history, to the inspection and palpation components of the physical examination, and to knowledge of the specific cardiac defects that are likely to be associated with certain clinical syndromes. With the possible exception of coarctation of the aorta, the clues are not diagnostically specific. In many instances, however, they serve to narrow a broad array of diagnostic possibilities to 2 or 3 and, with the aid of other clues and auscultation, they can often be distinguished from one another. When a primary care physician is confronted with a child who has an incidental murmur that is "probably" innocent but could be organic, useful clues favoring an organic murmur are a history of congenital heart disease in a first-degree relative; a history of maternal rubella syndrome, alcohol use, or teratogenic drug use during pregnancy; a history of inappropriate sweating; a history of syncope, chest pain, or squatting; maternal diabetes mellitus; premature birth; birth at a high altitude; cyanosis; abnormal pulsations; recurrent bronchiolitis or pneumonia; chronic unexplained hoarseness; asymmetric facies with crying; and a physical appearance suggestive of a clinical syndrome.

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