Background: Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is still a public health issue in many countries in the world, and particularly in Southeast Asia. India, for example, contributes 25%-50% of the global burden of RHD. Clinic-based and epidemiological studies on RHD in India have used different methodologies and clinical criteria to estimate RHD burden in India. The present study employs strict clinical criteria, including echocardiography, to estimate RHD prevalence and associated clinical complications in a large unique rural population in southern India covered through a governmental health insurance scheme. Materials and methods: Total 44,164 eligible patients were screened from 238 primary care health centers in rural southern India between October 2007 and March 2012 using strict clinical criteria and objective ascertainment. A total of 403 patients aged 15 years or above were finally analyzed based on both the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Detailed information on both demographic and clinical characteristics was obtained through personal interviews and clinical examinations. Descriptive analyses were performed, including age standardization. Results: The age-standardized RHD prevalence rate was 9.7/1000 populationsdmore common in younger age groups (<44 years) and relatively high among females. Pulmonary hypertension was the most common clinical complication followed by CHF, tricuspid regurgitation, as well as infective endocarditis. More than two-thirds had no past history of RHD or penicillin prophylaxis. Conclusions: RHD rates are still high in rural India among populations covered through governmental health insurance scheme. Both primary and secondary preventive measures, including widespread coverage of penicillin prophylaxis, must be considered mainstay tools to both prevent and reduce RHD burden in endemic populations, including rural India.
Key words: Prevalence, RHD, South India.