Objective: To assess the cost-effectiveness of various strategies to evaluate heart murmurs in children. Methods: We modeled 6 strategies to follow the initial examination by the pediatrician: (1) refer suspected pathologic murmurs to a cardiologist, (2) obtain a chest radiograph (CXR) and electrocardiogram (ECG) and refer suspected pathologic murmurs to a cardiologist, (3) refer suspected pathologic murmurs for an echocardiogram (ECHO), (4) obtain a CXR and ECG and refer suspected pathologic murmurs for an ECHO, (5) refer all patients with murmurs to a cardiologist, or (6) refer all patients with murmurs for an ECHO. Results: The least effective was strategy 1, which detects 82% of pathologic murmurs at $72 per patient evaluated. Strategy 5 detects 95% of pathologic murmurs at $58,000 per additional case detected over strategy 1. The most effective, strategy 6, detects 100% of pathologic murmurs at $158,000 per additional case detected over strategy 5. Strategies 2, 3, and 4 were not cost-effective. The results were sensitive to the costs of cardiology referral and ECHO. Conclusions: Adding a CXR and ECG to the pediatrician's evaluation, or selectively referring directly to ECHO increases costs with little gain in accuracy. Given the current cost constraints present in health care, whether the optimal strategy involves referring to a cardiologist or obtaining an ECHO for all patients with murmurs depends on how much society should allocate to diagnose pathologic murmurs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health