A heart surgeon at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), Dr Baffoe Gyan, has said if sore throat in children, particularly those between five and nine years, is not managed well, it could develop into heart disease in future, with many of such cases necessitating open heart surgery.
Speaking with the Daily Graphic in an interview, he said rheumatic heart disease started as sore throat from a bacteria called Streptococcus hemolytic, which requires surgery to correct.
To avoid rheumatic heart disease, children who got sore throat should be given the proper antibiotics and treatment, Dr Gyan said, after he had led a team of doctors, nurses and other health personnel to perform the first four successful open-heart surgeries at the UGMC in Accra.
Rheumatic heart disease is an auto-immune disorder which causes a person’s defence system to fight against the valves in the heart, the knees and joints when infected with rheumatic arthritis.
“If we confirm that it is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus hemolytic, then that patient will need a throat swab and has to be managed till 18 years,” he said.
Such a patient would also need to take antibiotics monthly till 18 years, he said, adding, however, that “we don't do that. We don't have that protocol established in this country”.
Rheumatic heart disease
According to Dr Gyan, rheumatic heart disease was the most common case that mostly affected children between those age brackets.
“We are supposed to have a plan as a nation, a plan for people who get infection of the throat, and when it is confirmed that it is the bacteria, then we know that you have to go through the procedure of taking antibiotics till it gets better.
“Once your defence system has been fighting against your heart in some stages, you will need the heart surgery,” he added.
The heart surgeon further mentioned high cholesterol and sugar levels — hypertension and diabetes — as risk factors for heart attacks.
“However, if we can manage these diseases correctly, we can prevent them from progressing into heart attacks,” he said.
Dr Gyan, therefore, advised people who had such diseases to always take their medication, do exercises and eat properly, including consuming vegetables, to avoid getting heart attacks.