HealthDay News – A relatively short, standardized computerized training course can train non-experts in performing rheumatic heart disease (RHD) screening by echocardiography, addressing a potentially prohibitive barrier to RHD screening.  These results were reported in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Andrea Beaton, MD, from the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., and colleagues examined the ability of nonexperts to interpret RHD screening echocardiograms following a three-week computer-based training course. Six nonexperts completed the course on image interpretation; their performance was tested in a school-screening environment and compared with the reference approach.

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The researchers found that all participants successfully completed the curriculum, with universally positive feedback. Screening was performed in 1,381 children, of whom 397 were referred for handheld echo. The overall sensitivity and specificity of the simplified approach was 83 and 85 percent, respectively. 

Missed mitral regurgitation (MR) and MR ≤1.5 cm were the most common reasons for the 16 false-negative screens. Identification of erroneous color jets, incorrect MR measurement, and appropriate application of simplified guidelines were the most common reasons for the 179 false-positive screens.

“In conclusion, a short, independent computer-based curriculum can be successfully used to train a heterogeneous group of nonexperts to interpret RHD screening echocardiograms,” the authors write. “This approach helps address prohibitive financial and workforce barriers to widespread RHD screening.”

General Electric provided the echocardiography equipment used for study completion.

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Beaton A, Nascimento BR, Diamantino AC, et al. Efficacy of a Standardized Computer-Based Training Curriculum to Teach Echocardiographic Identification of Rheumatic Heart Disease to Nonexpert Users. Am J Cardiol. 2016;117(11):1783-9.