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Identification of patients with latent rheumatic heart disease by echocardiography presents a unique opportunity to prevent disease progression. Myocardial strain is a more sensitive indicator of cardiac performance than traditional measures of systolic function.
The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that abnormalities in myocardial strain may be present in children with latent rheumatic heart disease.
Standard echocardiography images with electrocardiogram gating were obtained from Ugandan children found to have latent rheumatic heart disease as well as control subjects. Traditional echocardiography measures of systolic function were obtained, and offline global longitudinal strain analysis was performed. Comparison between groups was performed using strain as a continuous (Mann–Whitney U-test) and categorical (cut-off 5th percentile for age) variable.
Our study included 14 subjects with definite rheumatic heart disease, 13 with borderline rheumatic heart disease, and 112 control subjects. None of the subjects had abnormal left ventricular size or ejection fraction. Global longitudinal strain was lower than the 5th percentile in 44% of the subjects with any rheumatic heart disease (p=0.002 versus controls) and 57% of the subjects with definite rheumatic heart disease (p=0.03). The mean absolute strain values were significantly lower when comparing subjects with any rheumatic heart disease with controls (20.4±3.95 versus 22.4±4.35, p=0.025) and subjects with definite rheumatic heart disease with controls (19.9±4.25 versus 22.4±4.35, p=0.033).
Global longitudinal strain is decreased in subjects with rheumatic heart disease in the absence of abnormal systolic function. Larger studies with longer-term follow-up are required to determine whether there is a role for strain to help better understand the pathophysiology of latent rheumatic heart disease.
Rheumatic heart disease causes substantial morbidity in children in low-income countries. School-based echocardiographic screening has been suggested as a means to identify children with latent disease; however, little is known about the experience of children and teachers participating in screenings. The aim of our study was to assess students’ and teachers’ experience of school-based echocardiographic screening and identify areas for improvement.
Materials and methods
A school-based echocardiographic screening programme was conducted in five schools in Northern Uganda in 2013. After 8 months, an age- and gender-stratified population that included 5% of the participating students and teachers completed a questionnaire via an in-person interview. Responses were reviewed by question and coded to identify key themes.
A total of 255 students (mean 10.7 years; 48% male) and 35 teachers participated in our study. In total, 95% of the students and 100% of the teachers were happy to have participated in the screening; however, students reported feeling scared (35%) and nervous (48%) during the screening process. Programmatic strengths included the following: knowing one’s health status, opportunity to receive treatment, and staff interactions. Although 43% of the patients did not suggest a change with open-ended questioning, concerns regarding privacy, fear of the screening process, and a desire to include others in the community were noted.
School-based echocardiographic rheumatic heart disease screening was well received by students and teachers. Future programmes would likely benefit from improved pre-screening education regarding the screening process and diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease. Furthermore, education of teachers and students could improve screening perception and establish realistic expectations regarding the scope of screening.
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