Methods and results This retrospective cohort study used linked RHD register, hospital, and death data from five Australian states and territories (covering 70% of the whole population and 86% of the Indigenous population). Progression from uncomplicated RHD to all-cause death and non-fatal cardiovascular complications (surgical intervention, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, infective endocarditis, and stroke) was estimated for people aged <35 years with first-ever RHD diagnosis between 2010 and 2018, identified from register and hospital data. The study cohort comprised 1718 initially uncomplicated RHD cases (84.6% Indigenous; 10.9% migrant; 63.2% women; 40.3% aged 5–14 years; 76.4% non-metropolitan). The composite outcome of death/cardiovascular complication was experienced by 23.3% (95% confidence interval: 19.5–26.9) within 8 years. Older age and metropolitan residence were independent positive predictors of the composite outcome; history of acute rheumatic fever was a negative predictor. Population group (Indigenous/migrant/other Australian) and sex were not predictive of outcome after multivariable adjustment.
Conclusion This study provides the most definitive and contemporary estimates of progression to major cardiovascular complication or death in young Australians with RHD. Despite access to the publically funded universal Australian healthcare system, one-fifth of initially uncomplicated RHD cases will experience one of the major complications of RHD within 8 years supporting the need for programmes to eradicate RHD.