High prevalence of heart disease among kids

High prevalence of heart disease among kids

Delhi-based researchers have launched a multi-centric survey to ascertain the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) among children.

An inflammation of heart, the disease weakens the heart valves, leaving it incapacitated to pump sufficient amount of blood. Consequently, patients are left gasping for breath. It is triggered by streptococcus infection, commonly associated with sore throat.

“Only a handful of these sick children reach hospitals. Most of them are too sick to even to travel to a school or hospital,” pointed out K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

Possibilities of high incidence of the heart disease came to the fore for the first time last year, when cardiologists at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here found that a large number of children aged between five and 15 years, from poor socio-economic background in Haryana’s Ballabhgar, suffer from the disease. Over 6,000 children were surveyed.

While clinical examination with stethoscope showed a prevalence of only 0.8 every 1,000 children, check-up with echo-cardiography machine suggested a figure of 20.4 RHD patients every 1,000 children, the AIIMS team reported in the journal “Heart.”

“Because of the high incidence, we decided to expand the surveillance at three sites, Imphal, Goa and Navsari (Gujarat). Each site will recruit 2,000-2,500 children in the next 18 months who will be monitored for RHD. More than 600 children have been recruited at Imphal and Goa already,” AIIMS cardiologist Anita Saxena, who is spearheading the research, told Deccan Herald.

The AIIMS team is being supported by PHFI and the US-based Medtronic Foundation, which is sponsoring the study. Medtronic Foundation is a sister organisation of Medtronic, world’s largest medical technology company whose annual revenue in 2011 stood at close to $ 16 billion.

The researchers will carry portable echo-cardiograph machines to villages since early detection will help children to get back to normal life.

However, delays can cause serious damage to heart valves, necessitating surgery.
Statistical estimates suggest that India may have 1.6 million RHD patients, with 50,000 new patients diagnosed every year.

“These figures are likely to be an under estimate, in the absence of any representative survey on RHD,” Reddy said. Extrapolation from the AIIMS study points at six million RHD patients.