Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains a major public health concern in developing countries, and routine screening has the potential to improve outcomes. Standard portable echocardiography (STAND) is far more sensitive than auscultation for the detection of RHD but remains cost-prohibitive in resource-limited settings. Handheld echocardiography (HAND) is a lower-cost alternative. The purpose of this study was to assess the incremental value of HAND over auscultation to identify RHD.
RHD screening was completed for schoolchildren in Gulu, Uganda, by using STAND performed by experienced echocardiographers. Any child with mitral or aortic regurgitation or stenosis plus a randomly selected group of children with normal STAND findings underwent HAND and auscultation. STAND and HAND studies were interpreted by 6 experienced cardiologists using the 2012 World Heart Federation criteria. Sensitivity and specificity of HAND and auscultation for the detection of RHD and pathologic mitral or aortic regurgitation were calculated by using STAND as the gold standard.
Of 4773 children who underwent screening with STAND, a subgroup of 1317 children underwent HAND and auscultation. Auscultation had uniformly poor sensitivity for the detection of RHD or valve disease. Sensitivity was significantly improved by using HAND compared with auscultation for the detection of definite RHD (97.8% vs 22.2%), borderline or definite RHD (78.4% vs 16.4%), and pathologic aortic insufficiency (81.8% vs 13.6%).
Auscultation alone is a poor screening test for RHD. HAND significantly improves detection of RHD and may be a cost-effective screening strategy for RHD in resource-limited settings.