Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Rheumatic Heart Disease: Implications for Closing the Gap: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Raman Krishna Kumar, Manuel J. Antunes, Andrea Beaton, Mariana Mirabel, Vuyisile T. Nkomo, Emmy Okello, Prakash Raj Regmi, Boglarka Reményi, Karen Sliwa-Hähnle, Liesl Joanna Zühlke, Craig Sable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global burden of rheumatic heart disease continues to be significant although it is largely limited to poor and marginalized populations. In most endemic regions, affected patients present with heart failure. This statement will seek to examine the current state-of-the-art recommendations and to identify gaps in diagnosis and treatment globally that can inform strategies for reducing disease burden. Echocardiography screening based on World Heart Federation echocardiographic criteria holds promise to identify patients earlier, when prophylaxis is more likely to be effective; however, several important questions need to be answered before this can translate into public policy. Population-based registries effectively enable optimal care and secondary penicillin prophylaxis within available resources. Benzathine penicillin injections remain the cornerstone of secondary prevention. Challenges with penicillin procurement and concern with adverse reactions in patients with advanced disease remain important issues. Heart failure management, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of endocarditis, oral anticoagulation for atrial fibrillation, and prosthetic valves are vital therapeutic adjuncts. Management of health of women with unoperated and operated rheumatic heart disease before, during, and after pregnancy is a significant challenge that requires a multidisciplinary team effort. Patients with isolated mitral stenosis often benefit from percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty. Timely heart valve surgery can mitigate the progression to heart failure, disability, and death. Valve repair is preferable over replacement for rheumatic mitral regurgitation but is not available to the vast majority of patients in endemic regions. This body of work forms a foundation on which a companion document on advocacy for rheumatic heart disease has been developed. Ultimately, the combination of expanded treatment options, research, and advocacy built on existing knowledge and science provides the best opportunity to address the burden of rheumatic heart disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e337-e357
Number of pages21
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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