Routine screening with echocardiogram can detect three times as many cases of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) as clinical examinations, offering a novel approach in preventing this common disease, according to a new study in Circulation. The study, conducted by cardiologists from Children's National Medical Center, is the largest single-population study in Africa. The August issue of Nature Reviews - Cardiology features a summary of the article in its Public Health feature.
The study screened nearly 5,000 school-aged children in Uganda and 130 had abnormal echocardiograms. After further evaluation at a hospital, 72 children were classified as having RHD, compared with just 23 children who met the diagnosis criteria for clinical evaluation. This represents a 400 percent increase in identification with an echocardiogram.
"What we found is that there were many children who had clinically silent RHD, which would have gone undetected without an echocardiogram," said Children's National's Andrea Beaton, MD, the lead author. "Echo screenings allow us to identify at-risk patients early, which in turn allows for early intervention to prevent more serious disease and complications."
The team performed upwards of 250 screenings daily, making echocardiograms an efficient and effective means for screening. The authors' recommendations include: