Background: Australia, although a high income economy, carries a significant burden of rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and RHD are endemic in the Indigenous population. Immigrants from low/lower-income countries (‘non-Indigenous high-risk’) are also at increased risk compared with ‘non-Indigenous low-risk’ Australians. This study describes the utilisation of surgical and percutaneous procedures for RHD-related valve disease among patients aged less than 50 years, from 2002 to 2017.
Methods: A descriptive study using data from the ‘End RHD in Australia: Study of Epidemiology (ERASE) Project’ linking RHD Registers and hospital inpatient data from five states/territories, and two surgical databases. Trends across three-year periods were determined and post-procedural all-cause 30-day mortality calculated.
Results: A total of 3900 valves interventions were undertaken in 3028 procedural episodes among 2487 patients. Over 50% of patients were in the 35–49 years group, and 64% were female. Over 60% of procedures for 3-24 year-olds were for Indigenous patients. There were few significant changes across the study period other than downward trends in the number and proportion of procedures for young Indigenous patients (3–24 years) and ‘non-Indigenous/low risk’ patients aged ≥35 years. Mitral valve procedures predominated, and multi-valve interventions increased, including on the tricuspid valve. The majority of replacement prostheses were mechanical, although bioprosthetic valve use increased overall, being highest among females <35 years and Indigenous Australians. All-cause mortality (n = 42) at 30-days was 1.4% overall (range 1.1–1.7), but 2.0% for Indigenous patients.
Conclusions: The frequency of cardiac valve procedures, and 30-day mortality remained steady across 15 years. Some changes in the distribution of procedures in population groups were evident. Replacement procedures, the use of bioprosthetic valves, and multiple-valve interventions increased. The challenge for Australian public health officials is to reduce the incidence, and improve the early detection and management of ARF/RHD in high-risk populations within Australia.