Rheumatic heart disease screening by “point-of-care” echocardiography: an acceptable alternative in resource limited settings?
Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is estimated to affect over 20 million people worldwide, the vast majority being in developing countries. Screening for RHD has been recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) since 2004. Conventionally, auscultation has been used for diagnosing RHD. Auscultation has its limitations and may not detect mild cases. With the evolution of portable echocardiographic systems, mass screening for subclinical RHD has become possible. Portable echo has the advantage of rapid access and hence screening in schools or communities is possible. Its cost is lower than that of standard echo equipment. A large number of studies have reported echocardiographic screening for RHD over the last decade or so. A 3-10 fold increase in prevalence of RHD has been detected by using portable echo when compared with conventional method of auscultation. More recently, a small, compact, easy to carry in a pocket, hand held system has been introduced which is much cheaper than the conventional portable system. A few previous reports have shown the feasibility of using hand held echo system for diagnosis of various cardiac diseases. A recently published article has shown that the hand held system can be used to screen for RHD. It is more sensitive than the conventional auscultation for RHD. Authors of this report have concluded that screening with the hand held device may be a more cost effective strategy for screening for RHD in resource limited settings, since it is much cheaper than the portable echocardiography equipment.