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BackgroundRheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is the most common cause of valvular heart disease worldwide. Undiagnosed or untreated RHD can complicate pregnancy and lead to poor maternal and fetal outcomes and is a significant factor in non-obstetric morbidity. Echocardiography has an emerging role in screening for RHD. We aimed to critically analyse the evidence on the use of echocardiography for screening pregnant women for RHD in high-prevalence areas.MethodsWe searched MEDLINE and Embase to identify the relevant reports. Two independent reviewers assessed the reports against the eligibility criteria in a double-blind process.ResultsThe searches (date: 4 April 2023) identified 432 records for screening. Ten non-controlled observational studies were identified, five using portable or handheld echocardiography, comprising data from 23,166 women. Prevalence of RHD varied across the studies, ranging from 0.4 to 6.6% (I2, heterogeneity >90%). Other cardiac abnormalities (e.g., congenital heart disease and left ventricular systolic dysfunction) were also detected <1% to 2% of cases. Certainty of evidence was very low.ConclusionEchocardiography as part of antenatal care in high-prevalence areas may detect RHD or other cardiac abnormalities in asymptomatic pregnant women, potentially reducing the rates of disease progression and adverse labor-associated outcomes. However, this evidence is affected by the low certainty of evidence, and lack of studies comparing echocardiography versus standard antenatal care.Prospective registrationPROSPERO 2022 July 4; CRD42022344081 Available from: question'In areas with a high prevalence of rheumatic heart disease, should handheld echocardiography be added to routine antenatal care?'

Original publication





Global heart

Publication Date





Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Pond St, London NW3 2QG, UK.


Humans, Rheumatic Heart Disease, Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular, Echocardiography, Ultrasonography, Prenatal, Prenatal Care, Prevalence, Pregnancy, Female