Aim: To describe the clinical features, treatment and outcomes of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in children admitted to the national referral hospital in Dili, Timor-Leste.
Methods: This prospective study documented cases of ARF and RHD in children aged 14 years and under who were admitted between June 2017 and May 2019. ARF was diagnosed using an adapted version of the 2015 Jones criteria and presumed (rather than proven) exposure to group A Streptococcus. Clinical and echocardiographic findings, comorbidities and discharge outcomes are reported. Results: A total of 63 patients were admitted with ARF or RHD; 54 were diagnosed with RHD for the first time. Median age was 11 years (range 3–14); 48% were female. Of those with echocardiograms, 56/58 had RHD, 55/56 (98%) had mitral regurgitation (37/55 (67%) severe), 11/56 (20%) had mitral stenosis and 43/56 (77%) had aortic regurgitation. Left ventricular dysfunction (55%), pulmonary hypertension (64%) and cardiac failure (78%) were common. Four (6%) patients died in hospital, and 30/59 (51%) of surviving patients were lost to follow up.
Conclusions: Community echocardiography screening has reported a high prevalence of undetected mild to moderate cases of RHD in Timor-Leste, whereas this hospital study documents mostly severe disease among hospitalised patients with a high case fatality rate and loss to follow up. RHD is a significant health problem in Timor-Leste and improved recognition and diagnosis, as well as effective delivery of treatment and follow-up are imperative.