A congenital defect in a baby is normally detected within 22 days after conception during ultrasound scanning. Any abnormal heartbeat could be detected by the doctor during this stage, writes Dr ME Yeolekar, Professor of Internal Medicine, KJ Somaiya Medical College and Hospital.
Congenital heart defects (CHD) are not very uncommon these days in children; it impacts six to eight in every 1,000 children born in India. According to statistics, approximately 1.5 to 1.8 lakh babies are born with CHD. The common cause for the disorder lies in the defects in a child’s heart development.
It is not always possible to determine the cause of congenital heart diseases, but most tend to be genetic and are passed down the generations. CHD is also not entirely preventable as most cases happen in mothers with no risk factors. However, certain environmental and genetic risk factors like diabetes, medications, alcohol consumption and smoking also play a major role in this condition in kids.
A congenital defect in a baby is normally detected within 22 days after conception during ultrasound scanning. Any abnormal heartbeat could be detected by the doctor during this stage. Any anomalies could be confirmed with advanced tests like a chest X ray or an MRI scan. In some cases, the symptoms of a congenital heart defect may not appear until birth.
Few of the symptoms detected in babies who suffer from congenital defects are bluish lips, fingers, and toes, low birth weight, breathlessness or trouble breathing. These symptoms can vary by age groups since it’s a condition developed as the body grows. In some cases, the symptoms of a congenital heart defect may not appear until many years after birth and then later symptoms like abnormal heart rhythm, dizziness, fainting, swelling etc could appear leading to the same.
Generally, this heart disease occurs as a result of an early developmental problem in the heart’s structure which restricts the flow of blood through the heart and hence affects the breathing. The medical world is still researching on the right cause of heart not developing correctly.
The treatment for this defect is decided, seeing the severity and type of it. Some babies have mild heart defects that heal on their own with time while severe defects could require extensive treatment for complete recovery. In these cases, treatment may include the following:
• Medications: Various medications could increase the efficiency of the heart. Some can also be used to prevent formation of blood clots or simply to control an irregular heartbeat.
• Catheter procedures: Catheterisation techniques could repair certain congenital heart defects without surgically opening the chest and heart. This is performed by inserting a thin tube into a vein in the leg and guides it up to the heart. Once the catheter is in the correct position, the doctor will use small tools threaded through the catheter to correct the defect.
• Implantable heart devices: Certain complications associated with congenital heart defects can be prevented with the use of certain devices, including pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators. A pacemaker can regulate an abnormal heart rate; ICD may correct life threatening irregular heartbeats.
• Open Heart surgery: A surgeon may perform open heart surgery to close holes in the heart, repair heart valves, or widen blood vessels or other conditions which cannot cure by any other methods.
• Heart transplant: In the most complex cases, the baby’s heart will be replaced by a healthy heart from a donor. Heart transplantation is chosen as the last option, only if all other options don’t work.
Early diagnosis is extremely important considering the fact that children with high-risk CHD can die if they are not diagnosed early enough and given the right interventions and care. Even if they survive, chances are they will have uncorrected heart defects in adulthood which will require medical attention later.
An early diagnosis, followed by initiation of appropriate treatment intervention should be the most effective solution to keep congenital disorders at bay. Newborn screening is therefore, the best way to ensure our future generation grows up with a healthy heart.