Washington: Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is considerably under-treated in Africa and India, according to the preliminary findings of a new global study.Across the African and Indian regions included in the study it was revealed that patients are not receiving the surgery they need, secondary prevention with penicillin - to prevent further attacks of rheumatic fever - is being under-utilized and many patients are unaware of their target anti-coagulation levels.Specifically, only 41 per cent of patients enrolled in the study had received surgery. As the pilot results included a large tertiary academic centre, this does not reflect the dire lack of surgery available at the majority of enrolling centres.In fact, more than 85 per cent of the enrolling centres do not have surgery available on a regular basis for RHD patients.Nearly one-quarter of all patients (22 per cent) were in atrial fibrillation and of these patients, only 65 per cent were receiving necessary anti-coagulant therapy.Moreover, 71 per cent of these patients did not know their target international normalized ratio (INR) - an indicator of blood clotting time - 14 per cent had no INR reading in the six months prior to enrolling in the study and 78 per cent were not at their INR target.The study results further showed that only 36 per cent of patients with moderate or severe disease and only 20 per cent of those that have undergone valve replacement surgery are receiving secondary prophylaxis with penicillin."Across Africa and India it is widely known by cardiologists that many patients with RHD do not have access to the healthcare treatment they need. These results unfortunately show that even those that are being treated are not receiving the care they need, for a variety of reasons," said Dr. Liesl Zuklhe, Paediatric Cardiologist, Red Cross Children``s Hospital, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
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