Outbreaks of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) continue to arise in various countries where a rubella-containing vaccine is not included in the national immunization program. After a large-scale rubella outbreak in 2011, CRS cases emerged in Vietnam. The aim of this study was to clarify the clinical features of these cases with an emphasis on cardiovascular complications and outcomes.
From October 2011 to September 2012, we conducted a prospective surveillance study of infants <12 months of age who had manifestations suggesting CRS at the only referral hospital in Khanh Hoa Province. These infants underwent standard examinations, echocardiography, cranial ultrasonography, automated auditory brainstem responses, blood cell count measurements, and rubella-specific antibody testing. Detected cardiovascular defects were regularly followed with echocardiography.
We enrolled 38 cases of CRS characterized by a low birth weight (71%), cardiovascular defects (72%), cataracts (13%), hearing impairment (93%), purpura (84%), hepatosplenomegaly (68%), and thrombocytopenia (76%). Patent ductus arteriosus, the most common cardiovascular complication, was often associated with progressive pulmonary hypertension (PH). As of January 2013, 13 infants (34%) had died, and PH was significantly more frequent among the fatalities (P = .004); however, therapeutic closure of the ductus reversed the PH in several cases.
PH-associated mortality is high among infants who have CRS in Vietnam. Providing proper assessments, continuous follow-up, and timely intervention for cardiovascular defects is critical for the management of CRS patients. Echocardiography is of diagnostic and prognostic value and can support better clinical management of CRS, even in a developing country setting.