Echocardiographic screening for subclinical rheumatic heart disease remains a research tool pending studies of impact on prognosis

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2013 Mar;15(3):343. doi: 10.1007/s11886-012-0343-1.


The application of portable echocardiography to the screening of asymptomatic children and young adults for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in developing countries indicates that the disease may affect 62 million to 78 million individuals worldwide, which could potentially result in 1.4 million deaths per year from RHD and its complications. The World Heart Federation has developed a guideline for the echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD in asymptomatic individuals without a history of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) in order to ensure the reliability, comparability, and reproducibility of findings of the echocardiographic screening studies. Early studies suggest that a third of individuals with asymptomatic subclinical RHD revert to normal echocardiographic findings on repeat testing after 6-12 months, suggesting that repeat echocardiography may be necessary to confirm the findings prior to consideration of interventions such as antibiotic prophylaxis. It is not known, however, whether echocardiographic screening for asymptomatic subclinical RHD or the introduction of antibiotic prophylaxis for affected individuals improves the prognosis of RHD. Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of this screening method has not been established in the vast majority of affected countries. Therefore, echocardiographic screening for asymptomatic subclinical RHD remains a research tool until studies of impact on prognosis and cost-effectiveness are conducted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / trends
  • Point-of-Care Systems / economics
  • Prognosis
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography