Heart, Lung and Circulation

Medical Treatment for Rheumatic Heart Disease: A Narrative Review

Published:August 17, 2022DOI:


      Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) are rare in high-income countries; however, in Aotearoa New Zealand ARF and RHD disproportionately affect Indigenous Māori and Pacific Peoples. This narrative review explores the evidence regarding non-surgical management of patients with clinically significant valve disease or heart failure due to RHD.


      Medline, EMBASE and Scopus databases were searched, and additional publications were identified through cross-referencing. Included were 28 publications from 1980 onwards.


      Of the available interventions, improved anticoagulation management and a national RHD register could improve RHD outcomes in New Zealand. Where community pharmacy anticoagulant management services (CPAMS) are available good anticoagulation control can be achieved with a time in the therapeutic range (TTR) of more than 70%, which is above the internationally recommended level of 60%. The use of pharmacists in anticoagulation control is cost-effective, acceptable to patients, pharmacists, and primary care practitioners. There is a lack of local data available to fully assess other interventions; including optimal therapy for heart failure, equitable access to specialist RHD care, prevention, and management of endocarditis.


      As RHD continues to disproportionately affect Indigenous and minority groups, pro-equity tertiary prevention interventions should be fully evaluated to ensure they are reducing disease burden and improving outcomes in patients with RHD.


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