Congenital Heart Defect

Congenital heart defects involve heart problems with the heart’s structure that are present at the time of birth. The defects can involve the valves of the heart, the walls of the heart or the arteries and veins leading to or coming from the heart.  They usually change the normal flow of blood through the heart.

There are many types of congenital heart defects that range from simple asymptomatic defects to complex defects that are life threatening.  Congenital defects affect 8 out of every 1000 newborns.  This amounts to more than 35,000 babies born in the US with congenital heart defects.  Most are simple and are easily fixed or need no fixing.  Some require special intervention including surgery shortly after birth.  The diagnosis and treatment of difficult heart defects has greatly improved over the last few decades.  This means that most people born with complex heart defects live into adulthood. As of this date, more than a million people are living with congenital heart defects.

Congenital Heart Defect

In a healthy heart in children, the heart is the size of his or her fist.  It has two sides, separated by two thick septa.  The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs and the left side of the heart pumps blood into the body.  It does this 100,000 times per day.  There are four chambers and four valves managing the heart’s activity.

There are various types of congenital heart defects.  Some are simple, like a hole in a septum with blood flowing from left to right.  Other heart defects are complex, including combinations of simple defects or problems with the location of arteries and veins coming to and out of the heart.

Simple defects include holes in the septum of the heart.  There is an atrial septal defect which occurs in the upper chambers of the heart.  Most kids with ASDs have murmurs but few other signs and symptoms. ASDs can be small or large but don’t affect heart function.  Many small ASDs eventually close over; medium and large ones don’t close over as quickly or at all.  Almost half of all ASDs will close on their own eventually.

A ventricular septal defect is a hole between the ventricular septa.  It allows oxygen rich blood to flow across the septum to the oxygen poor side of the heart.  VSDs can be small or large.  Small ones are more likely to close over while medium and large ones rarely close over on their own.   Large VSDs make the heart work much harder and it increases the pressure on the right side of the heart.  This can cause poor growth and heart failure.  The hole needs to be closed surgically before there are scars in the pulmonary arteries and lungs.  Doctors repair the surgery using open heart surgery.

A patent ductus arteriosus is a common heart defect that occurs shortly following birth.  There is abnormal blood flow between the aorta and the pulmonary artery.  It’s a hole that is supposed to close on its own shortly after birth.  It can take up to a couple of days for the ductus arteriosus to close.  If it fails to close, oxygen rich blood flows to oxygen poor blood as in a VSD. Like a VSD, a patent ductus arteriosus eventually strains the heart.  A heart murmur might be the only sign that a baby has a patent ductus arteriosus.  The baby may be short of breath, have poor growth and feeding, may tire easily and may sweat with exertion.  PDAs are treated with medications and surgery.  Small PDAs usually close without treatment.

The valves are between the atria and ventricles and at the outflow to the heart at the level of the lungs and at the aorta.

Valves can be stenotic or narrowed and fused together.  Valves can have atresia in which it has no hole for an exit.  Valves can suffer from regurgitation so that blood leaks back into the previous chamber.

The most common valvular defect is pulmonary valve stenosis.  It can be mild or severe.   Treatment isn’t necessary if the pulmonary valvular stenosis is small.  If it severe, there can be right heart failure and surgery is necessary to correct the problem.  Some babies are born with pulmonary valve stenosis and PDA or an ASD.  If this happens, the blood can go from the right to left side and the baby is cyanotic or blue.

Complex heart defects need surgical intervention.  Tetralogy of Fallot is the most common cause of a complex heart defect.  It involves pulmonary valve stenosis, a large VSD and an overriding aorta.  It is also associated with right ventricular hypertrophy.  Not enough blood can get to the lungs and oxygen poor blood spreads out to the body.  This needed to be repaired with surgery.

Babies with this disorder have episodes of cyanosis and older children get tired and faint with exertion.  Nowadays surgery is done soon after birth or later, depending on how narrow the pulmonary artery is.  These children need lifelong care with a cardiologist in order to stay healthy. For more Detail Visit: General Practitioner Medical Compensation Solicitors

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