Are minor echocardiographic changes associated with an increased risk of acute rheumatic fever or progression to rheumatic heart disease?

Int J Cardiol. 2015 Nov 1;198:117-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.07.005. Epub 2015 Jul 6.


Background: The World Heart Federation criteria for the echocardiographic diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) include a category "Borderline" RHD which may represent the earliest evidence of RHD. We aimed to determine the significance of minor heart valve abnormalities, including Borderline RHD, in predicting the future risk of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) or RHD.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 8 to 18 years was conducted. Cases comprised children with Borderline RHD or other minor non-specific valvular abnormalities (NSVAs) detected on prior echocardiography. Controls were children with a prior normal echocardiogram. Participants underwent a follow-up echocardiogram 2.5 to 5 years later to assess for progression of valvular changes and development of Definite RHD. Interval diagnoses of ARF were ascertained.

Results: There were 442 participants. Cases with Borderline RHD were at significantly greater risk of ARF (incidence rate ratio 8.8, 95% CI 1.4-53.8) and any echocardiographic progression of valve lesions (relative risk 8.19, 95% CI 2.43-27.53) than their Matched Controls. Cases with Borderline RHD were at increased risk of progression to Definite RHD (1 in 6 progressed) as were Cases with NSVAs (1 in 10 progressed).

Conclusions: Children with Borderline RHD had an increased risk of ARF, progression of valvular lesions, and development of Definite RHD. These findings provide support for considering secondary antibiotic prophylaxis or ongoing surveillance echocardiography in high-risk children with Borderline RHD.

Keywords: Acute rheumatic fever; Diagnosis; Echocardiography; Rheumatic heart disease; Screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / ethnology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rheumatic Fever / diagnostic imaging
  • Rheumatic Fever / ethnology
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultrasonography