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Announcing the new WHF Guidelines for the Echocardiographic Diagnosis of Rheumatic Heart Disease

02 Nov 2023

Today, at the first World Congress on Rheumatic Heart Disease in Abu Dhabi, the World Heart Federation is launching the 2023 WHF Guidelines for the Echocardiographic Diagnosis of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), a comprehensive document summarizing the latest available scientific evidence on the management of RHD that can be applied in both clinical and research settings.

The guidelines, published in Nature Reviews Cardiology, have been developed with the primary objective of defining the minimum echocardiographic criteria for diagnosing RHD based on the best-available and up-to-date evidence. They are intended to serve as a contemporary and practical reference document that can be easily used in RHD-endemic regions worldwide.

The 2023 revision of the guidelines is specifically designed to provide diagnostic guidance to healthcare practitioners and researchers engaged in various aspects of RHD detection and care. This includes those involved in active case-finding programmes, opportunistic case detection in clinical settings, and routine healthcare providers who may encounter possible RHD cases.

The guidelines introduce two new sets of echocardiographic criteria for RHD: screening criteria which are primarily meant for non-experts and can be applied in appropriate settings to detect suspected cases of RHD; and confirmatory criteria, designed for experts to use to confirm a diagnosis of RHD.

In addition to an updated, stage-based classification of RHD, which categorizes RHD based on the risk of progression to more advanced valvular heart disease, the 2023 guidelines incorporate weight-based measurements for valvular regurgitation jet length, enhancing the accuracy of diagnosis. They also provide recommendations for the management of early stages of RHD, offering comprehensive guidance to healthcare professionals.

These guidelines are expected to benefit all RHD-endemic regions across the globe, with a particular emphasis on low and middle-income countries and resource-limited settings. By providing clear diagnostic criteria and management recommendations, the guidelines aim to support early diagnosis and the initiation of secondary prophylaxis to prevent disease progression.

The launch of these guidelines represents a significant step towards improving the prevention and management of rheumatic heart disease worldwide. By offering evidence-based criteria and guidance, they have the potential to make a substantial impact on the lives of individuals in RHD-endemic regions and contribute to global efforts to combat this deadly, yet preventable, disease.

As experts gather at the World Congress on Rheumatic Heart Disease to share knowledge, research findings, and best practices in the fight against RHD, the release of these guidelines serves as a critical tool that will empower healthcare providers with the latest diagnostic criteria and management recommendations.