Latent rheumatic heart disease: outcomes 2 years after echocardiographic detection.
[acute rheumatic fever]
Screening with portable echocardiography has uncovered a large burden of latent rheumatic heart disease (RHD) among asymptomatic children in endemic regions, the significance of which remains unclear. This study aimed to determine the 2-year outcomes for children with latent RHD diagnosed by echocardiographic screening. Children identified with latent RHD enrolled in a biannual follow-up program. Risk factors for disease persistence and progression were examined. Of 62 children, 51 (82 %) with latent RHD had a median follow-up period of 25 months. Of these 51 children, 17 (33.3 %) reported an interval sore throat or symptoms consistent with acute rheumatic fever (ARF). Of 43 children initially classified as having borderline RHD, 21 (49 %) remained stable, 18 (42 %) improved (to no RHD) and 4 (10 %) worsened to definite RHD. Of the 8 children initially classified as having definite RHD, 6 (75 %) remained stable, and 2 (25 %) improved to borderline RHD. Two children had confirmed episodes of recurrent ARF, one of which represented the sole case of clinical worsening. The risk factors for disease persistence or progression included younger age (p = 0.05), higher antistreptolysin O titers at diagnosis (p = 0.05), and more morphologic valve abnormalities (p = 0.01). After 2 years, most of the children had a benign course, with 91 % remaining stable or showing improvement. Education may improve recognition of streptococcal sore throat. Longer-term follow-up evaluation, however, is warranted to confirm disease progression and risk factor profile. This could help tailor screening protocols for those at highest risk.