“Is Rheumatic Heart Valve Disease Common?” Asks Frank

By Adam Pick on May 2, 2010

I just received an interesting question from Frank about rheumatic heart disease and heart valve surgery.

 

Surgical Repair Of Mitral Valve Stenosis Due to Rheumatic Fever

 

Frank writes, “Hi Adam – I’m preparing for mitral valve repair surgery due to stenosis caused by rheumatic fever. So far, I have not come across many patients like me. I’m curious… Is rheumatic heart valve disease common? Or, am I the lucky outlier? Thanks, Frank”

After speaking with thousands of patients over the years, my gut response to Frank’s question is that his diagnosis is less common than other patients. However, this is not to say that Frank is alone. For example, if you type “rheumatic” into the search field on the side margin of this blog, you will see several patient stories relating to rheumatic fever.To further evaluate Frank’s question, I just did some quick research about rheumatic fever and heart valve disorders. I found some helpful information from the American Heart Association (AHA).

According to the AHA:

  • Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease killed 3,257 people in the United States in 2006.
  • Modern antibiotic therapy has sharply reduced mortality. In 1950, about 15,000 people in the United States died of these diseases.
  • From 1996 to 2006, the death rate from rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease fell 8.3 percent. Actual deaths declined 26.2 percent.

In reviewing these statistics, it appears that modern antibiotics (e.g. penicillin) are protecting patients against the negative impact of Group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that causes rheumatic fever. The benefits of drug therapy are further understood when you consider that patients with rheumatic heart disease are at higher risk for bacterial endocarditis, according to AHA.

 

Bacterial Endocarditis Diagram

 

While I have yet to find any clinical data about the incidence or frequency of heart valve surgery due to rheumatic fever, I hope the information above provides some insight into Frank’s question.

The good news is that the incidence of rheumatic heart disease is declining. Unfortunately, the bad news is that rheumatic fever continues to impact our hearts – especially patients in less developed countries who do not have access to antibiotics.

Keep on tickin!
Adam


Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and The Wall Street Journal.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and The Wall Street Journal.

Adam's Newest Blogs

Adam's Newest Posts

The “Forgotten” Tricuspid Valve Gets Transcatheter Love Learn More.

Why Did 100 Patients & Care Partners Get a Standing Ovation at Patient Day 2018 at Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine, California? Learn More.

New Community Posts

Terry says, "A friend who works for one of the valve..."
Read more

Gregory says, "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=..."
Read more

Newest Community Post

Terry says, "A friend who works for one of the valve"
Read more

Gregory says, "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v="
Read more

Rob says, "Maybe I should have eliminated alchohol"
Read more

Find Heart Valve Surgeons

Search 1,500 patient-recommended surgeons