Background: Echocardiographic screening for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) has the potential to detect subclinical cases for secondary prevention, but is constrained by inadequate human resources in most settings. Training non-expert health workers to perform focused cardiac ultrasound (FoCUS) may enable screening at a population-level. We aimed to evaluate the quality and agreement of FoCUS for valvular regurgitation by briefly trained health workers.
Methods: Seven nurses participated in an eight week training program in Fiji. Nurses performed FoCUS on 2018 children aged five to 15 years, and assessed any valvular regurgitation. An experienced pediatric cardiologist assessed the quality of ultrasound images and measured any recorded regurgitation. The assessment of the presence of regurgitation and measurement of the longest jet by the nurse and cardiologist was compared, using the Bland-Altman method.
Results: The quality of FoCUS overall was adequate for diagnosis in 96.6 %. There was substantial agreement between the cardiologist and the nurses overall on the presence of mitral regurgitation (κ = 0.75) and aortic regurgitation (κ = 0.61) seen in two views. Measurements of mitral regurgitation by nurses and the cardiologist were similar (mean bias 0.01 cm; 95 % limits of agreement -0.64 to 0.66 cm).
Conclusions: After brief training, health workers with no prior experience in echocardiography can obtain adequate quality images and make a reliable assessment on the presence and extent of valvular regurgitation. Further evaluation of the imaging performance and accuracy of screening by non-expert operators is warranted, as a potential population-level screening strategy in high prevalence settings.