What is Congenital Heart Disease?
Congenital heart disease refers to defects in the structure and functionality of the heart of a child that is present at the time of birth. Doctors often cannot precisely point at the exact cause of child heart disease but in most cases, they tend to be hereditary. Newborn heart disease can occur due to genetic abnormalities, in cases where the mother encounters viral infection during the first trimester or due to alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy.
Common Types of CHDs
Heart Valve Disorders
The four valves of the heart are responsible for regulating the flow of blood through the upper and lower chambers of the heart and out of the body. Child heart disease caused due to heart valve disorders occurs when one or more valves fail to function normally, leading to blood traversing backward or blockages in the blood passage.
Hole in the Heart Defects
Child heart disease can occur due to septal defects or holes in the walls of the heart chambers. The malformation of the heart wall during the fetal stage results in this severe condition of congenital baby heart disease. In this case, the child heart disease causes oxygen-rich blood to mix with deoxygenated blood, resulting in the lack of sufficient oxygen reaching the vital organs in the body.
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
This newborn heart disease occurs when the left side of the baby’s heart is underdeveloped. As the left chambers are responsible to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body tissues, this condition causes the lack of oxygenated blood in the body, leading to serious complications.
This type of congenital heart disease in babies is the occurrence of an abnormal heart rhythm of the heart. Arrhythmia leads to baby heart problem symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and feeding difficulties.
The pericardium is a thin membrane that surrounds the heart. Pericarditis is the infection or inflammation of this membrane. This type of child heart disease occurs when the amount of fluid between the two layers of the sac increases, hence disrupting the normal pumping of the heart.
In this baby heart disease present at birth, the tricuspid valve between the two right chambers of the heart is deformed. This malformation leads to blood flowing back through the valve, hence flowing in the opposite direction. This leads to the heart not functioning efficiently and can often cause heart failure in children.
On the detection of serious baby heart problem symptoms, doctors advise the following tests for diagnosis:
Early Detection of CHDs in Children
When a routine examination of (apparent) healthy newborn babies is done, it rarely detects a congenital cardiac malformation; in fact, the checkups will detect less than half of CHDs in infants and the results will usually come up asymptomatic (without any symptoms). Severe cardiac malformations are not detected in infants who are below three months; for instance, a left heart obstruction can be overlooked quite easily and this can lead to a serious deterioration, in less than three weeks.
Hence, it’s critical that you arrange for early echocardiography for infants with signs of cardiac malformations, or if they are at risk of contracting cardiac malformations. Echocardiography is crucial because it will provide you with results that are not detected through normal cardiac tests. Babies who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome must go through expert echocardiography, at the earliest.
If the CHD is diagnosed through an echocardiography test, and it’s critical, then the infant must be rushed to urgent consultation with a pediatric cardiologist. Infants with lesions that are ductal dependent have an increased risk death rate unless treated immediately. Either they should be treated by an experienced pediatric cardiologist or rushed to a medical facility where the pediatric cardiology department is experienced and warranted.
The goal of early detection and CHD screenings, in infants below three months of age, is mostly to reduce mortality that is usually connected with delayed diagnosis.
Certain congenital heart defects do not have long-term effects while others may even correct themselves over time. But a serious condition of child heart disease may require medications and invasive procedures.
- Medications for mild congenital heart defects include drugs containing:
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
These medications assist to lower the blood pressure and regulate the amount of fluid in the chest.
- Cardiac Catheterization – This procedure entails the insertion of a thin tube into the vein in the lower limbs, which is then guided towards the heart using X-ray imagery. Then, tiny tools are threaded through the catheter to fix the defect.
- Open-heart Surgery – An extensively invasive technique where the chest is opened up to repair the deformations of the baby’s heart. Lesser invasive techniques can also be implemented that involves making small incisions between the ribs.
Preparing Your Child
Preparing a baby for surgery to cure child heart disease should start two weeks before the procedure. The newborn should not have viral infections that may cause cold and fever. Pre-operative tests of the baby are also conducted a week before. These include counseling, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, chest X-ray and blood test.
Outlook and Prognosis
Some children with congenital heart defects require multiple surgeries and ongoing care even after corrective invasive procedures.
- Monitoring and Treatment – Constant care, follow-up treatments and visits to a cardiologist is a must for the well-being of the baby.
- Exercise restrictions – Child heart disease patients are usually restricted from strenuous physical activities but this can differ on a case-by-case basis.
- Infection prevention – Depending on the type of baby heart disease, lifelong infection prevention methods should be applied to inhibit bacterial endocarditis.
Most congenital heart defects do not need treatment as they heal on their own. Thanks to the advancement of medicine, affected children can now go on to live healthy, near-normal adult lives.