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Echocardiographic Screening & Follow-up

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The echocardiographic screening component of RR uses portable echocardiographic equipment to determine positive cases of RHD, according to the WHF guidelines, among school-aged children. A rapid screening method is used, followed by a more comprehensive echocardiogram for children with significant mitral or aortic valvular disease. In order to better understand the appropriate use of echo screening in diagnosing and treating RHD, the RR team is collecting data and preforming serial follow up echocardiograms.

The purpose of screening is to identify children in the early phases of RHD and start them on the antibiotics that will prevent the disease from causing heart dysfunction. First, using stethoscopes, we listen to the childrens’ hearts for murmurs, which is the first sign of valvular heart disease. Second, an ultrasound technician performs an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, in which the heart valves are assessed. This is the gold standard for detection of rheumatic heart disease. If a child is found to have RHD, treatment is arranged depending on severity. Mild cases are started on an antibiotic regimen. Severe cases are referred to medical professionals for surgery to fix or replace the affected valve. Diagnosing early is one way we can make a change.