Context: Because of population migration from endemic areas and newly instituted blood bank screening, US clinicians are likely to see an increasing number of patients with suspected or confirmed chronic Trypanosoma cruzi infection (Chagas disease).
Objective: To examine the evidence base and provide practical recommendations for evaluation, counseling, and etiologic treatment of patients with chronic T cruzi infection. Evidence Acquisition Literature review conducted based on a systematic MEDLINE search for all available years through 2007; review of additional articles, reports, and book chapters; and input from experts in the field.
Evidence synthesis: The patient newly diagnosed with Chagas disease should undergo a medical history, physical examination, and resting 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) with a 30-second lead II rhythm strip. If this evaluation is normal, no further testing is indicated; history, physical examination, and ECG should be repeated annually. If findings suggest Chagas heart disease, a comprehensive cardiac evaluation, including 24-hour ambulatory ECG monitoring, echocardiography, and exercise testing, is recommended. If gastrointestinal tract symptoms are present, barium contrast studies should be performed. Antitrypanosomal treatment is recommended for all cases of acute and congenital Chagas disease, reactivated infection, and chronic T cruzi infection in individuals 18 years or younger. In adults aged 19 to 50 years without advanced heart disease, etiologic treatment may slow development and progression of cardiomyopathy and should generally be offered; treatment is considered optional for those older than 50 years. Individualized treatment decisions for adults should balance the potential benefit, prolonged course, and frequent adverse effects of the drugs. Strong consideration should be given to treatment of previously untreated patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection or those expecting to undergo organ transplantation.
Conclusions: Chagas disease presents an increasing challenge for clinicians in the United States. Despite gaps in the evidence base, current knowledge is sufficient to make practical recommendations to guide appropriate evaluation, management, and etiologic treatment of Chagas disease.