Indian Pediatrics 2008; 45:565-573
Consensus Guidelines on Pediatric Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease
Working Group on Pediatric Acute Rheumatic Fever and Cardiology Chapter of Indian Academy of Pediatrics
Correspondence to: Dr Smita Mishra, Convener, National
Consultative Meeting on Pediatric ARF/RHD. Pediatric Cardiologist, Max
Heart & Vascular Institute, Saket, New Delhi, India.
These Guidelines were formulated at National Consultative Meeting on 20th May, 2007, IMA Hall, New Delhi,
under IAP Vision 2007.
Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic chronic valvular heart disease is an important preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in suburban and rural India. Its diagnosis is based on clinical criteria. These criteria need verification and revision in the Indian context. Furthermore, there are glaring differences in management protocols available in literature. These facts prompted Indian Academy of Pediatrics to review the management of rheumatic fever. Process: Management of Rheumatic fever was reviewed and recommendation was formulated at national consultative meeting on 20th May 2007 at New Delhi. Objectives: To formulate uniform guidelines on management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in the Indian context. Guidelines were formulated for the management of streptococcal pharyngitis, acute rheumatic fever and its cardiac complication as well as secondary prophylaxis for recurrent episodes. Recommendations: (1) Streptococcal eradication with appropriate antibiotics (Benzathine penicillin single dose or penicillin V oral or azithromycin). (2) Diagnosis of rheumatic fever based on Jones criteria. (3) Control inflammatory process with aspirin with or without steroids (total duration of treatment of 12 weeks). (4) Treatment of chorea according to severity (therapy to continue for 2-3 weeks after clinical improvement). (5) Protocol for managing cardiac complication like valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation. (6) Secondary prophylaxis with benzathine penicillin and management of anaphylaxis.
Keywords: Acute rheumatic fever, Guidelines, India, Practice, Rheumatic heart disease.
Acute rheumatic fever is a non-suppurative complication of group A beta hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) sore throat. It affects joints, skin, subcutaneous tissue, brain and heart(1). Except heart, all other effects are reversible, needing only symptomatic relief during the episodes. Cardiac complications are significant in absence of secondary prophylaxis and culminate into chronic and life threatening valvular heart disease(2).
Prevalence of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Indian population varies from 0.5 /1000 to 11/1000 in various studies. The disease actually has it’s roots in childhood (5-15 yr)(1-6). Till now any clear-cut guidelines on the subject in Indian scenario are nonexistent. Therefore, Indian Academy of Pediatrics took the initiative and convened a national consultative meeting at IMA Hall, New Delhi on 20th May 2007.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
This consultative meeting was convened to bring uniformity in approach on management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in the Indian context. The objectives were to frame practice guidelines for:
(i) diagnosis and management of streptococcal pharyngitis;
(ii) diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever;
(iii) management of cardiac complications of rheumatic fever;
(iv) care of native and prosthetic valve, endocarditis prophylaxis, and anticoagulation; and
(v) secondary prophylaxis of rheumatic fever.
Formulation of Guidelines was based on online national survey conducted by central IAP before the consensus meet to obtain pediatricians’ input; experience from ICMR projects (Jai-Vigyan Mission Mode Project–Indian Council of Medical Research); available published literature (National/ International); and experience from premier institutes of India represented by faculty members.
Level of Evidence
Class I: General agreement exists
Class II: Reasonable agreement, but conflict-ing evidence/ divergence of opinion
Class IIa: Weight of evidence/opinion in favor
Class IIb: Credibility less well established, but most agree
Class III: Intervention not indicated, may be harmful
1. Management of Streptococcal Pharyngitis
Group A beta hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) sore throat is the first event in the natural history of acute rheumatic fever. It should be diagnosed, differentiated from non streptococcal pharyngitis and treated. Onset of symptoms is sudden. Clinically patient has high fever, sore throat with pustules, strawberry tongue, petechiae on palate and tender anterior cervical lymph nodes. The following investigations should be done: throat culture, rapid streptococcal antigen test, antistreptolysin O (ASO), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) and complete blood counts. Antimicrobials to be used for GABHS pharyngitis are detailed in Table I. Tetracycline, sulfonamide and chloramphenicol should not to be used to treat GABHS pharyngitis because of widespread prevalence of drug resistance(7-12).
TABLE I Drugs for the Treatment of Streptococcal Pharyngitis and Secondary Prophylaxis
* see text for duration of secondary prophylaxis and references. ** only one dose is sufficient for GABHS pharyngitis.
2. Management of Acute Rheumatic Fever
Diagnosis is based on recognition of major and minor criteria supported by evidence of preceding streptococcal infection (Table II)(4,11-20).
TABLE II Diagnosis of Rheumatic Fever
* Normal upper range; – PR Interval:3-12 yrs:0.16sec; 12-14 y: 0.18 sec; >17y:0.20 sec)
First episode: Two major or one major and two minor criteria plus supportive evidence of previous streptococcal throat infection.
Recurrence in a patient without established heart disease: Two major or one major and two minor criteria + supportive evidence of previous strepto-coccal throat infection.
Recurrence in a patient with established heart disease: Two minor criteria and supportive evidence of previous streptococcal throat infection.
Rheumatic chorea and insidious onset rheumatic carditis: No requirement of other major manifestations or supportive evidence of streptococcal sore throat infection
Indicators of recurrence of rheumatic fever in established heart disease:
(i) new murmur / change in pre-existing murmur;
(ii) pericardial rub (and other evidence of pericarditis); and
(iii) unexplained congestive heart failure (CHF), including cardiomegaly.
Recurrence: A new episode of rheumatic fever following another GABHS infection; occurring after 8 week following stopping treatment.
Rebound: Manifestations of rheumatic fever occurring within 4-6 wk of stopping treatment or while tapering drugs.
Relapse: Worsening of rheumatic fever while under treatment and often with carditis.
Sub clinical carditis: When clinical examination is normal but echocardiogram is abnormal. Around 30 percent of patients having chorea present as sub clinical carditis.
Indolent carditis: It is a common entity in our country. Patient presents with persistent features of CHF, murmur and cardiomegaly. There are no or very few features of carditis.
To establish the diagnosis, relevant tests include throat culture, rapid streptococcal antigen test, ASO, ESR, CRP, hemoglobin, complete blood count, platelet count, chest X-ray and electrocardiogram (ECG)(18,19). Echocardiography is not mandatory to establish the diagnosis of rheumatic fever although it is an important role in detection of sub-clinical carditis(16,17).
General measures and symptomatic relief: According to clinical status, treatment for pain relief should be given (codeine or paracetamol till diagnosis is confirmed and aspirin after the diagnosis is confirmed). Hospitalization is needed for moderate to severe carditis, severe arthritis or chorea. Rest is individualized according to symptoms. For arthritis, rest for two weeks is adequate. Carditis without congestive heart failure (CHF) needs 4-6 weeks of rest. In cases of CHF, rest must be continued till the CHF is controlled. Appropriate diet is a must for a growing child with cardiac involvement(12,18,19,30).
Management of inflammatory process–therapy to be continued for 12 weeks: Total duration of anti-inflammatory therapy after the diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever is established, must be 12 weeks (Table III). All anti-inflammatory drugs may cause gastrointestinal bleeds. Steroids may lead to cushingoid facies and flaring up of dormant infections. Aspirin may cause tinnitus. For side effects, monitoring is needed. Aspirin and steroids are primarily used to control inflammation. Naproxen and methylprednisolone can be used alternatively(12,18,19,21-24).
TABLE III Drugs for Control of Inflammation in Acute Rheumatic Fever
* Consider antacids. Avoid gastric irritants. Allow frequent feeding. Medicines must not be taken on empty stomach.
Management of chorea: Mild chorea is treated with quite environment, and sedatives like oral phenobarbitone or diazepam. If there is no response, then one may use haloperidol (0.25-0.5 mg/kg/d), sodium valproate (15 mg/kg/day), or carbamazepine (7-20 mg/kg/d) may be used. Resistant cases can be treated with plasmapheresis or pimozide(25-28). Treatment should be continued for 2-4 weeks after clinical improvement. If there are laboratory features of rheumatic activity (ESR, CRP, ASO), anti-inflammatory drugs must be given (Table III).
3. Management of Cardiac Complications
Management of congestive heart failure: Restrict physical activities to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Monitor the weight and fluid balance (input /output charting). Treat anemia with iron and/or packed cells, as and when indicated. Table IV enlists the drugs and their dosages, recommended to control CHF(18,29,30).
TABLE IV Drugs and Dosages for Heart Failure
Atrial fibrillation: Usually accompanies chronic valvular disease. It may cause acute decompensa-tion and thromboembolism. Drugs recommended for control of atrial fibrillation are listed in Table V (18,30,31).
TABLE V Management of Atrial Fibrillation
* Before starting the treatment rule out accessory pathways (AP) as these drugs may slow down AV conduction and increase ventricular rate due to faster conduction via AP; ** Rule out left atrial clot and start anticoagulant before cardio version.
4. Interventions in Valvular Heart Disease
Patients, who are symptomatic, have ventricular dysfunction or have severe involvement of valve according to clinical and echocardiographic evaluation, would need intervention according to lesion(12,18,30,32-35):
A. Mitral stenosis: Suitable cases with pure mitral stenosis must be treated with balloon mitral valvuloplasty (BMV). The patients unsuitable for BMV may need valve repair or replacement.
B. Mitral regurgitation: Acute rheumatic fever with acute severe mitral regurgitation and uncontrolled congestive heart failure, secondary to chordal rupture, is a class I indication for urgent surgical intervention. Symptomatic chronic MR is treated with either valve repair or replacement.
C. Aortic stenosis: Isolated aortic stenosis is rare. Treatment with ballooning procedures is usually not helpful. Surgical intervention is done in symptomatic patients.
D. Aortic regurgitation: Aortic regurgitation presenting as isolated or combined lesion, is treated with prosthetic valve replacement.
Endocarditis and thromboembolism: Chronic valvular disease predisposes for endocarditis, thrombus formation and subsequent systemic thromboembolic events in patients with diseased native or prosthetic valves.
Endocarditis: Detailed management is beyond the scope of this article(12,18,36). Benzathine penicillin is not recommended for endocarditis prophylaxis, hence, separate antibiotic protocols must be used before catheterization or any surgical intervention. For unexplained fever, blood culture using at least three samples of blood from three different sites, at the interval of half to one hour and echocardiography is recommended in addition to routine blood examination, urine examination, X-ray chest and other relevant investigations. Endocarditis prophylaxis and management include (i) adequate use of antibiotics only on pediatrician’s advice and avoidance of self prescription; and (ii) family counseling regarding dental hygiene and other precautions.
Treatment of endocarditis needs prolonged administration of recommended IV antibiotics. Duration differs according to status of patient (with native or prosthetic valve) and the type of organism.
Anticoagulation: Therapy is indicated in the patients with atrial fibrillation or history of embolization and following the prosthetic or bioprosthetic valve replacement (Table VI)(18,37).
TABLE VI Anticoagulation for Prosthetic Heart Valves
INR: International Normalized Ratio = (x/y)z , where x = Prothrombin Time of sample (sec), y = Mean Normal Prothrombin Time (sec); z = [ISI of Thromboplastin]
5. Secondary Prophylaxis
Secondary prevention of rheumatic fever is defined as the continuous administration of specific antibiotics to patients with a previous attack of rheumatic fever, or documented RHD(12). The purpose is to prevent colonization or infection of the upper respiratory tract with group A beta-hemolytic streptococci and the development of recurrent attacks of rheumatic fever. Secondary prophylaxis should be started only after establishing the diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever(38-40). Isolated ASO titre is not a criteria to start secondary prophylaxis. After surgery or intervention secondary prophylaxis should be continued.
Duration of secondary prophylaxis
(i) No carditis: 5 years/18yrs of age, whichever is longer.
(ii) Mild to moderate carditis and healed carditis: 10 yrs/25 yrs of age, whichever is longer.
(iii) Severe disease or post intervention patients: Life long. One may opt for secondary prophylaxis up to the age of 40 years (Table I).
Drugs recommended for secondary prophylaxis (Table I)
6. Management of Anaphylaxis
Sensitivity testing for penicillin: Ideally sensitivity test has to be done with major and minor allergen supplied separately (not available in India). Benzathine penicillin is unsuitable for skin test for various reasons. Intradermal test must be done with both benzyl penicillin and control saline (0.02-0.05 ml at volar surface of forearm or lateral surface of arm). Positive test is indicated by formation of a wheal, 2 mm more than control or 4 mm more than initial edema (test time 20-30 min).
Anaphylaxis: This is a reactionary involvement of many systems, best treated by adrenalin (IM/SC/IV) and not steroids. It needs weight appropriate administration of fluid. In severely affected cases a prolonged cardiopulmonary resuscitation is usually fruitful. Mechanical ventilation must be done if required. Diuretics may be detrimental even if used in pulmonary edema (36,37).
We acknowledge our gratitude to Dr Naveen Thackar, IAP president, 2007; Dr R K Agarwal President IAP 2008; Dr Deepak Ugra, Honorary Secretary General IAP 2007; Dr Ajay Gambhir, Vice President IAP 2007 and Dr H P Singh, Professor of Pediatrics, SSMC Rewa who were always available for help. We are thankful to Prof (Dr) R Tandon, Consultant Jai Vigyan Mission Mode on RF/RHD (ICMR) for his valuable suggestions and guidance. We are grateful to Dr Bela Shah, Scientist G & HoD, Department of NCD, ICMR, for providing vital inputs from ICMR ARF/RHD projects. We express our appreciation for Dr Devendra Mishra for his help in manuscript writing. We would like to thank all the pediatricians who participated enthusiastically in our online survey conducted before the consultative meeting. We also express our thankfulness to Prof Jonathan R Carapetis, Chairman, Council on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease, Menzies School of Health Research Australia and Prof (Dr) Phill Leiberman, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Memphis, TN for apprising us their views on anti-inflammatory therapy, BPG administration and sensitivity testing.
Writing Committee: Anita Saxena, R Krishna Kumar, Rani Prem Kumar Gera, S Radhakrishnan, Smita Mishra, Z Ahmed.
Advisory Committee: A Gupta, J Singh, M Sharma, R K Agarwal, R Tandon, Simi Manocha, Y K Mishra.
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