BACKGROUND: Historically, sub-Saharan Africa has had the highest prevalence rates of clinically detected rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Echocardiography-based screening improves detection of RHD in endemic regions. The newest screening guidelines (2006 World Health Organization/National Institutes of Health) have been tested across India and the Pacific Islands, but application in sub-Saharan Africa has, thus far, been limited to Mozambique. We used these guidelines to determine RHD prevalence in a large cohort of Ugandan school children, to identify risk factors for occult disease, and to assess the value of laboratory testing.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Auscultation and portable echocardiography were used to screen randomly selected schoolchildren, 5 to 16 years of age, in Kampala, Uganda. Disease likelihood was defined as definite, probable, or possible in accordance with the 2006 National Institutes of Health/World Health Organization guidelines. Ninety-seven percent of eligible students received screening (4869 of 5006). Among them, 130 children (2.7%) had abnormal screening echocardiograms. Of those 130, secondary evaluation showed 72 (55.4%) with possible, probable, or definite RHD; 18 (13.8%) with congenital heart disease; and 40 (30.8%) with no disease. Echocardiography detected 3 times as many cases of RHD as auscultation: 72 (1.5%) versus 23 (0.5%; P
CONCLUSIONS: This is one of the largest single-country childhood RHD prevalence studies and the first to be conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. Our data support inclusion of echocardiography in screening protocols, even in the most resource-constrained settings, and identify lower socioeconomic groups as most vulnerable. Longitudinal follow-up of children with echocardiographically diagnosed subclinical RHD is needed.
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