Background: Echocardiographic screening in school-aged children can detect rheumatic heart disease (RHD) prior to the manifestation of symptoms of heart failure. The challenge is making this practical and affordable on a global scale. This study aims to evaluate the diagnostic utility of an ultra-abbreviated echocardiographic screening protocol involving a single parasternal-long-axis-view-sweep of the heart (SPLASH) in two dimensional (2D) and colour Doppler imaging (index test).
Methods: This prospective study of diagnostic accuracy compared the diagnostic utility of the index screening test with a comprehensive reference test (standard echocardiographic screening protocols) as per World Heart Federation (WHF) echocardiographic criteria. School students in Timor-Leste aged 5–20 years were enrolled. Both index and reference test images were acquired by cardiologists on Vivid I or Q machines (GE Healthcare, Marlborough, MA, USA).
Results: A total of 1,365 participants were screened; median age was 11 years. The estimated prevalence of definite and borderline RHD was 35.2 per 1,000. Congenital heart disease was identified in 11 children (0.8%) with two needing cardiac surgery. Abnormal SPLASH views were found in 109/1365 (7.99%). No cases of RHD or significant congenital heart disease were missed. Sensitivity and specificity of the abbreviated protocol for detecting RHD were 1.0 and 0.95 respectively.
Conclusions: A simplified echocardiography screening protocol using SPLASH is highly sensitive and specific and could significantly improve the efficiency of RHD screening. It has the potential to expedite training of health workers whilst protecting the modesty of students.