If a child is suffering from a congenital heart defect, it means that the child is born with a heart defect. Some of the heart problems are simple and don’t need treatment, while some are very complex and may need multiple surgeries depending on the prevailing heart condition.
Symptoms of Heart Defects-
The symptoms in children with serious heart defects depend on the type of congenital heart disease. Symptoms that a child can show are:
• Breathing problem while feeding the baby
• Frequent cough and cold
• Poor weight gain/weight loss
• Sweating over forehead during feeding
• Pale grey or bluish skin especially on crying
• Swelling in some areas like legs etc. in heart failure like situations
To mention a few the symptoms in children with less serious heart defects are not identified until childhood as in some cases, the child might not have the symptoms shown so early.
• Feeling short of breath during an activity
• Swelling in some body parts
Causes of Heart Defects-
The heart of the foetus begins to take shape during the first six weeks of pregnancy. The heart also starts beating. During this time, the major blood vessels of the heart that carry blood back and forth also start developing.
At this point, the problem starts to occur and defects start developing in the heart of the child. Still, the doctors are not sure about the cause of the defects, but they believe its genetic.
Types of Heart Defects-
Some of the common heart defects include:
1. Holes in the Heart (ASD/VSD/PDA/AVSD)-
• Holes can be formed between the chambers or major blood vessels.
• Holes allow rich oxygen blood to mix up with poor oxygen blood.
2. Cyanotic heart diseases (TOF, TGA, Ebstein’s, etc)-
• In these heart diseases, child generally has bluish-blackish discoloration of fingers or lips
3. Obstructed Blood Flow (AS/PS/COA)-
• In this type of problem, the heart valves/heart vessels are narrow because of the defect; this causes the heart to pump harder.
• This can lead to enlargement of the heart. How to diagnose child heart diseases?
• Even in pregnancy, these heart diseases can be easily diagnosed by doing “Fetal Echocardiogram”. This test is like a routing ultrasound but focuses only on the fetal heart in detail. Fetal echo is generally done between 18-24 weeks but can be done in late pregnancy as well.
• After birth of the child, we need to do “Pediatric Echocardiogram” (just like an ultrasound). This is a non-invasive test with no pain to the child.
• By doing an echocardiogram, we can diagnose almost every child heart diseases.
• Sometimes, Cardiac cath study or CT angio of heart needs to be done for confirming the diagnosis.
1. Some heart defects do not need any treatment as they get cured itself within a span of time.
2. However, some are serious which need to be taken care of
3. Treatment can be done either by medicines or by doing angiographic procedure or by doing open heart surgeries
4. Now a day, majority of child heart diseases like ASD, VSD, PDA, Aortic or pulmonary stenosis or coarctation of aorta, excess fluid collection around heart can be managed in cath lab by doing angiography.
5. Other cardiac diseases like large VSD/PDA/ASD, TOF, TGA, Truncus, HLHS/Tricuspid Atresia needs open heart surgery.
6. Pediatric cardiac surgery or cath lab procedures are very safe now a day.
As the reason is still unknown for the defects in the heart, it is not possible to prevent these conditions. But there are some ways that can reduce the overall risk that builds heart disease. Some of them are:
• Control Chronic Medical Conditions: If someone is suffering from diabetes, regular check-up of the blood sugar may reduce heart defects. If a person is suffering from any other disease, consult it with the doctor.
• Take Multivitamin with Folic Acid
Most families refer to their newborn baby as their 'bundle of joy'. The news of a child being born brings immense joy to the entire family. However, due to various reasons, a child could be born with some medical abnormalities, which would be known as congenital abnormalities. There are several different types of heart defects that can be congenital. These usually manifest themselves either immediately after birth or in the early years of life. In some cases, the abnormality could be detected on prenatal ultrasounds. In others, it may not be and the family could be caught off guard about the condition. This causes a lot of stress, both for the child, who does not receive regular postnatal care and for the parents immediately after the delivery process.
If the baby has the following symptoms within the first few hours of life, there could be a serious underlying condition, which requires medical attention. The presence and severity of the symptoms would depend on the actual abnormality.
In some children, symptoms manifest only during the teenage years or early adulthood. These conditions are not very severe and the symptoms include:
Some or more of these symptoms should trigger a warning to get the child tested for congenital heart disease. While some would just require a monitoring until severe symptoms develop, severe conditions like holes, abnormal valves, narrowed arteries, and blood vessel abnormalities might require immediate intervention.