Screening of asymptomatic rheumatic heart disease among refugee/migrant children and youths in Italy.
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AbstractRheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a chronic condition responsible of congestive heart failure, stroke and arrhythmia. Almost eradicated in high-income countries (HIC), it persists in low- and middle-income countries. The purpose of the study was to assess the feasibility and meaningfulness of ultrasound-based RHD screening among the population of unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy and determine the burden of asymptomatic RHD among this discrete population. From February 2016 to January 2018, Médecins Sans Frontières conducted a weekly mobile screening by echocardiography in reception centers and family houses for unaccompanied foreign minors in Rome, followed by fix echocardiographic retesting for those resulting positive at screening. 'Definite' and 'borderline' cases were defined according to the World Hearth Federation criteria. Six hundred fifty-three individuals (13-26 years old) were screened; 95.6% were below 18 years old (624/653). Six 'definite RHD' were identified at screening, yielding a detection rate of 9.2‰ (95% CI 4.1-20.3‰), while 285 (436.4‰) were defined as 'borderline' (95% CI 398.8-474.9‰). Out of 172 "non-negative borderline" cases available for being retested (113 "non-negative borderline" lost in follow-up), additional 11 were categorized as 'definite RHD', for a total of 17 'definite RHD', yielding a final prevalence of 26.0‰ (95% CI 16.2-41.5‰) (17/653), and 122 (122/653) were confirmed as 'borderline' (final prevalence of 186.8‰, 95% CI 158.7-218.7). In multivariate logistic regression analysis the presence of systolic murmur was a strong predictor for both 'borderline' (OR 4.3 [2.8-6.5]) and 'definite RHD' (OR 5.2 [1.7-15.2]), while no specific country/geographic area of origin was statistically associated with an increased risk of latent, asymptomatic RHD. Screening for RHD among the unaccompanied migrant minors in Italy proved to be feasible. The burden of 'definite RHD' was similar to that identified in resource-poor settings, while the prevalence of 'borderline' cases was higher than reported in other studies. In view of these findings, the health system of high-income countries, hosting migrants and asylum seekers, are urged to adopt screening for RHD in particular among the silent and marginalized population of refugee and migrant children.
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