Echocardiograms are more effective in detecting and thus preventing rheumatic heart disease (RHD) than clinical examinations.
This is the finding of a new circulation study in the US, which claims that three times more RHD cases are detected through echocardiograms than from examination by a doctor.
According to researchers this offers a new approach for preventing the common disease.
The discovery was made when screening 5,000 children in Uganda. Some 130 participants were found to have abnormal echocardiograms, with 72 classified as having RHD.
This is in contrast to just 23 classified as having RHD when examined by a doctor alone, representing a 400 per cent increase in identification with an echocardiogram.
Dr Andrea Beaton, lead author on the study, commented: "Echo screenings allow us to identify at-risk patients early, which in turn allows for early intervention to prevent more serious disease and complications."
Echocardiograms are already used to detect cardiac function in patients for an array of conditions, but they are yet to become commonplace.
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