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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phono-spectrographic analysis of heart murmur in children

Anna-Leena Noponen1*, Sakari Lukkarinen2, Anna Angerla1 and Raimo Sepponen2

Author Affiliations

1 Pediatric Cardiology, Jorvi Hospital, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

2 Applied Electronics Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Communication Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland

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BMC Pediatrics 2007, 7:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-7-23

Published: 11 June 2007

Abstract

Background

More than 90% of heart murmurs in children are innocent. Frequently the skills of the first examiner are not adequate to differentiate between innocent and pathological murmurs. Our goal was to evaluate the value of a simple and low-cost phonocardiographic recording and analysis system in determining the characteristic features of heart murmurs in children and in distinguishing innocent systolic murmurs from pathological.

Methods

The system consisting of an electronic stethoscope and a multimedia laptop computer was used for the recording, monitoring and analysis of auscultation findings. The recorded sounds were examined graphically and numerically using combined phono-spectrograms. The data consisted of heart sound recordings from 807 pediatric patients, including 88 normal cases without any murmur, 447 innocent murmurs and 272 pathological murmurs. The phono-spectrographic features of heart murmurs were examined visually and numerically. From this database, 50 innocent vibratory murmurs, 25 innocent ejection murmurs and 50 easily confusable, mildly pathological systolic murmurs were selected to test whether quantitative phono-spectrographic analysis could be used as an accurate screening tool for systolic heart murmurs in children.

Results

The phono-spectrograms of the most common innocent and pathological murmurs were presented as examples of the whole data set. Typically, innocent murmurs had lower frequencies (below 200 Hz) and a frequency spectrum with a more harmonic structure than pathological cases. Quantitative analysis revealed no significant differences in the duration of S1 and S2 or loudness of systolic murmurs between the pathological and physiological systolic murmurs. However, the pathological murmurs included both lower and higher frequencies than the physiological ones (p < 0.001 for both low and high frequency limits). If the systolic murmur contained intensive frequency components of over 200 Hz, or its length accounted for over 80 % of the whole systolic duration, it was considered pathological. Using these criteria, 90 % specificity and 91 % sensitivity in screening were achieved.

Conclusion

Phono-spectrographic analysis improves the accuracy of primary heart murmur evaluation and educates inexperienced listener. Using simple quantitative criterias a level of pediatric cardiologist is easily achieved in screening heart murmurs in children.