To determine the basis for cardiac consultations for pediatric patients in an academic hospital setting. The activities of the cardiology consultation service were tabulated for 12 months, from July 2001 to June 2002. Patients were identified from 4 sources, ie, a monthly log of patient encounters maintained by the consultation service, encounter forms submitted to the billing office, consultation notes maintained in a central file, and a departmental list of echocardiography studies. Patients who required clearance for noncardiac surgical procedures were generally evaluated in the cardiology clinic and not by the consultation service. Patient data were obtained from consultation and echocardiography reports and from hospital computer-based records for discharge summaries for inpatient admissions, emergency department encounter summaries, and laboratory reports. For each patient, consultations were tabulated as separate encounters if they occurred on different days in the emergency department, during separate admissions, or for different clinical concerns during a single admission. A total of 2071 consultations were performed for 1724 patients. The age at the time of consultation was 6.6 +/- 9.3 years (median: 1.2 years; range: 1 day to 60.6 years). A total of 1507 patients (87.4%) had a single consultation; 217 patients (12.6%) had multiple encounters, ranging from 2 to 9, accounting for 564 consultations (27.2%). Clinical concerns included murmurs (18.5%), cardiac function (12.7%), arrhythmias (12.7%), intercurrent illnesses among cardiac patients (11.3%), cyanosis (6.3%), syndromes (5.7%), chest pain (5.2%), syncope/dizziness (4.5%), subacute endocarditis (4.4%), follow-up evaluations of fetal diagnoses (4.3%), Kawasaki disease (3.4%), cor pulmonale (3%), recent cardiac surgery or catheterization (1.6%), cerebrovascular accidents (1.2%), and miscellaneous conditions. Four diagnoses accounted for 91% of murmur evaluations, ie, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular septal defects, innocent murmurs, and pulmonary branch murmur of infancy. The most common murmur diagnosis in the neonatal intensive care unit was patent ductus arteriosus (68%), in the well-child nursery was ventricular septal defect (64%), and on the medical ward was innocent murmur (62%). The most common basis for evaluation of function was oncologic disease. Among patients evaluated for function, there were 3 new diagnoses of structural congenital heart disease, all involving neonates with aortic arch obstruction. Approximately two-thirds of arrhythmias were supraventricular in origin. The most common arrhythmias requiring treatment were supraventricular tachycardia and atrial flutter/fibrillation, the latter occurring mainly among older patients with structural heart disease. Diagnoses made with fetal echocardiography accounted for 14.3% of newborn consultations and included 83% of patients with cyanotic cardiac disease. Three syndromes accounted for 57% of consultations for this indication, ie, VACTERL association (vertebral anomalies, anal atresia, congenital heart disease, tracheoesophageal fistula, renal abnormality, and limb anomalies), trisomy 21, and infant of diabetic mother. Chest pain and syncope/dizziness were frequently evaluated in the emergency department and, in this setting, accounted for 13 and 10% of all evaluations and 19 and 25% of evaluations for new patients, respectively. For patients evaluated for chest pain, the most common basis was musculoskeletal/costochondritic (42%) or idiopathic (22%). There was a cardiac or pericardial basis in 11% of cases; these patients either had known heart disease associated with this complication or systemic symptoms, abnormal cardiac auscultatory findings, and electrocardiographic features of pericarditis. Syncope/dizziness most commonly had a vasovagal (50.5%) or orthostatic (24.7%) basis. There was a cardiac basis in 5.4% of cases; these patients were more likely to have symptoms associated with exercise. Although endocarditis was a frequent clinical concern (91 patients), only 3 cases were identified, involving 2 patients with structural heart disease and 1 neonate with an indwelling intracardiac catheter. Two other patients had central venous lines, intravascular thrombus, and fungemia. Kawasaki disease was the most common acquired condition leading to consultation. Cor pulmonale was most commonly screened among patients with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, chronic lung disease of prematurity, pneumonitis, reactive airway disease, or cystic fibrosis. Patients with recent cardiac surgery or cardiac catheterization typically had postpericardiotomy syndrome or complications associated with vascular access. Approximately 20% of cases of cerebrovascular accidents had a cardiac basis. Although a variety of conditions were assessed, some were encountered more frequently. Future educational curricula developed for cardiac training of pediatric residents should appropriately emphasize conditions necessitating consultation.