UCT researchers go to the heart of maternal cardiac disease in Africa

03 September 2012

Prof Karen SliwaHeart Champion: Prof Karen Sliwa is leading a new study that is coming to grips with maternal heart disease in Africa.

Heart disease during pregnancy in Africa is coming under the spotlight in a ground-breaking study led by Professor Karen Sliwa, director of UCT's Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa. Preliminary findings are that rheumatic heart disease (leaking heart valves), unoperated congenital heart disease, and a combination of hypertension and a weakened heart muscle - a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy - each account for a third of cardiac disease in maternity. Sliwa and her team also found evidence of gaps in the care of pregnant women with heart problems. "The pregnant mothers are doing quite all right during the pregnancy because they are under constant care," says Sliwa. "However, the mother is given no medical attention in the six months following delivery. Also, when a condition is detected they are not automatically referred to a cardiologist, or they are not referred soon enough." These are some of the issues the Cardiac Disease in Maternity Cohort Study seeks to address. Women with known or suspected cardiac conditions are referred to the Cardiac Disease and Maternity Clinic at Groote Schuur hospital, which Sliwa runs with gynaecologist/obstetricians Professor John Anthony and Dr Catherine Elliott. To date more than 200 patients have entered the cohort.

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