Acute Rheumatic Fever

Today, we talked about the very interesting case of a middle-aged man who presented with acute migrating oligoarthritis, found to be febrile with an inflammatory synovial fluid and elevated ASO titers consistent with acute rheumatic fever!


Clinical Pearls

  • Nonsuppurative manifestations of GAS infection include acute rheumatic fever (ARF), acute GN, and Scarlet fever.
  • Use the modified Jones Criteria to help you diagnose ARF and treat early if high suspicion for the disease (do not wait for titers to come back).
  • Late complications of ARF include rheumatic heart disease (10-20 years after infection) and Jaccoud arthropathy.
  • Treatment of ARF involves NSAIDs for arthritis, PCN G IM x 1 dose for acute presentation and then monthly for prophylaxis, and patient education about oral hygiene to prevent endocarditis and need for prophylaxis before invasive procedures.

Differential diagnosis for a migratory arthritis

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Vasculitis (IgA, cryo, ANCA associated)
  • SLE 
  • Acute leukemia
  • Serum sickness
  • Viral arthritis
  • Bacteremia (staph, strep, mening/gonococcal)
  • Pulmonary infections (mycoplasma, histoplasma)
  • Lyme
  • Whipple’s

Nonsuppurative complications of GAS infection

  • ARF
  • Scarlet fever
  • Acute GN

Rheumatic fever 

  • Nonsuppurative sequela that occurs 2-4 weeks after GAS pharyngitis
  • Epi
    • More common in children 5-15 years of age
    • More common in resource limited settings
  • Pathogenesis:
    • Poorly understood, ?molecular mimicry
  • Clinical manifestations:
    • Two primary manifestations of disease

Two manifestations of ARF

(Table above from UpToDate)

  • Late sequelae
    • Rheumatic heart disease (10-20 years after infection), primary involves the mitral valve >aortic valve.
      • Leading cause of cardiovascular death in the first 5 decades of life in resource limited settings
    • Jaccoud arthropathy
  • Diagnosis:
    • Revised Jones criteria (joint and cardiac manifestations can only be counted once).
      • Major
        • Carditis and valvulitis (clinical or subclinical) – 50-70%
          • Usually pancarditis. Valvulitis especially of mitral and aortic valves, shown as regurg on echo.
          • Carey Coombs murmur: short mid-diastolic murmur heard loudest at the apex
        • Arthritis (migratory, involving large joints) – 35-66%, earliest symptom
          • Several joints affected in quick succession, each inflamed for a day or two to one week. Most common are knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists.
        • CNS involvement (Sydenham chorea) – 10-30%
        • Subcutaneous nodules – 0-10%
        • Erythema marginatum – <6% 
      • Minor
        • Arthralgia
        • Fever >38.5
        • Elevated acute phase reactants (ESR, CRP)
        • Prolonged PR interval on EKG
      • Diagnosis requires evidence of prior GAS infection plus:
        • 2 major OR
        • 1 major + 2 minor criteria OR
        • 3 minor criteria (only if patient has history of prior episode of ARF)
      • In a high prevalence setting, slightly modified criteria are used.
    • Labs:
      • Prior GAS infection through either
        • Throat culture
        • Positive rapid strep antigen test
        • Elevated or rising ASO titers
      • Treatment
        • Goals
          • Symptomatic relief of acute disease manifestations
            • Arthritis: NSAIDs
            • Carditis: if severe, heart failure treatments
          • Eradication of GAS
            • IM PCN G benzathine x 1
            • Contacts (throat culture test and treat if positive)
          • Ppx against future GAS infection to prevent progression of cardiac disease
            • PCN G IM once a month
            • For 5 years or until 21 years of age (whichever is longer)
            • If ARF with carditis and residual heart disease
              • 10 years or until 40 years, sometimes even lifelong
            • Education
              • Oral health
              • Ppx before any invasive procedures

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