Background: Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains an important health issue for indigenous women of child-bearing age in northern Australia. However, the influence of RHD on maternal outcomes with current clinical practice is unclear.
Aims: To determine maternal cardiac complications and obstetric outcomes in patients with RHD.
Methods: Retrospective case note analysis of women with RHD who received obstetric care between July 1999 and May 2010 at Cairns Base Hospital in north Queensland. Outcome measures were obstetric interventions and outcomes, cardiac interventions and complications, stratified according to a cardiac risk score (CRS).
Results: Ninety-five confinements occurred in 54 patients, of whom 52 were Indigenous Australians. There were no maternal or neonatal deaths. With a CRS of 0, cardiac complications occurred in 0 of 70 confinements; with a CRS of 1, complications occurred in 5 of 17 confinements (29%); with a CRS of >1, complications occurred in 2 of 4 confinements (50%). Another four patients were first diagnosed with RHD after developing acute pulmonary oedema during the peripartum period.
Conclusions: RHD has a major impact on maternal cardiac outcomes. However, with current management practices, maternal and fetal mortality are low, and the incidence of complications is predictable based on known risk factors.