New RHD diagnoses

In this report, a ‘new’ rheumatic heart disease (RHD) diagnosis is defined as one that was diagnosed between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2018. In most cases, it is not possible to identify a year of onset for RHD as the condition may be asymptomatic initially. The analysis is based on year of diagnosis.

In 2014–2018, there were 1,586 reports of new RHD diagnoses in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (3.4 per 100,000 population).

For the 4 jurisdictions combined, RHD diagnosis rates between 2014 and 2018 have remained relatively stable, at around 3–4 diagnoses per 100,000 population annually. During this period, diagnosis rates varied by state and territory, but in general:

  • South Australia had less than 1 diagnosis per 100,000 population
  • Western Australia and Queensland had 2–3 diagnoses per 100,000
  • Northern Territory had 30–50 diagnoses per 100,000.
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New RHD diagnoses among all Australians in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. A combined vertical bar chart and line graph, the bars show the number of new RHD diagnoses and the line shows the rate of new RHD diagnoses over the period 2014 to 2018. The data are presented by year or by age group, and for all Australians and Indigenous Australians, with the option to filter by state and territory and sex. The number and rate of new RHD diagnosis increased from 2016 to 2018 and was highest among Indigenous Australians aged 5-14 years.

Indigenous Australians

Of the 1,586 new RHD diagnoses among all Australians in 2014–2018, 83% (1,314) were Indigenous Australians (60 per 100,000 population). The annual combined rate in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory decreased slightly between 2014 and 2016, but then increased from 51 to 73 per 100,000 between 2016 and 2018. During the same period, the overall diagnosis rate for Indigenous Australians was around 100 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians.

In 2014–2018, most new RHD diagnoses among Indigenous Australians were from the Northern Territory. The rate of new diagnoses in the Northern Territory was twice that of Western Australia, nearly 4 times that of Queensland and nearly 5 times that of South Australia. In 2018, 2 in 5 (132, 40%) new RHD diagnoses were from the Northern Territory.

Age and sex

In 2014–2018, for all new RHD cases diagnosed among Indigenous Australians:

  • the rate of new RHD diagnosis for females was nearly twice that for males (76 and 44 diagnoses per 100,000 population, respectively)
  • females had higher rates compared to males in all age groups, excluding those aged 0–4
  • 59% were aged under 25 years at diagnosis (773 people)
  • 23 children were aged under 5 when diagnosed
  • the median age at diagnosis was 20 years (15 years for males and 23 years for females).

The remainder of the information on RHD in this report (with the exception of deaths) relates to Indigenous Australians, due to the relatively small number of new cases recorded among non-Indigenous Australians.

New RHD severity at diagnosis

In 2014–2018, of the 1,314 Indigenous Australians with new RHD diagnoses:

  • 58% had mild RHD when first diagnosed (764 diagnoses)
  • 25% had moderate RHD (326)
  • 16% had severe RHD (214).

This distribution was similar across states and territories. Distribution also varied by age group, with relatively large proportions of severe cases in the 0–4 and 45 and over age groups (21% and 30% of cases, respectively).

New RHD diagnoses among Indigenous Australians, by severity status. A stacked vertical bar graph showing the severity status (priority level) of new RHD diagnoses among Indigenous Australians in 2014–2018. There is an option to filter by state and territory, age group and year – changing the x-axis categories. The distribution of severity was similar between 2014 and 2018, though the proportion of new RHD diagnoses classified as severe was highest in the Northern Territory (19.8%) and among those aged 0-4 (21.7%) and 45 and over (29.7%).

Visualisation not available for printing