Healthy Living

Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects

Surgical treatment is the most appropriate option for inborn heart defects, which is not something you can put off.

What is a congenital heart defect (CHD)?

It is combined damage of the heart muscle in which there are structural deformations and anomalies in the inner chamber partitions, as well as the valves and outgoing (incoming) blood vessels. Pathological changes lead to disruption of blood flow to the subsequent development of circulatory failure.

What does a baby with CHD look like?

Usually, heart defects are detected in the first hours after the birth, as the babies might have distinguishing appearance:

  • There is visible cyanosis around the mouth.
  • In addition, bluish color of the skin may be presented on the fingertips, nose, earlobes. 
  • The skin color changes not only with the physical strain but in a state of rest. 
  • Shortness of breath appears at a light load.

These kids are weakened and often suffer from long-lasting illnesses, which greatly exacerbates the defect.

Older children with congenital heart conditions complain of constant weakness and fatigue. Their skin is pale, with a bluish tinge. There are frequent cases of sudden fainting.

A child with heart disease stands out: such kid usually avoids physical load, is inactive, lethargic and listless, and has no appetite.

If your kids have the symptoms listed above, you have to see the cardiologist (a doctor qualified in the heart and vessels problems), who will establish the diagnosis and determine further treatment strategy.

What are the causing factors for CHD?

Congenital heart disease (inborn) have various causing factors:

  • Infections in the first trimester of pregnancy are extremely dangerous, especially during the first half of pregnancy. 
  • Drug poisoning
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Family history
  • Hormonal failure (the mother)

Types of CHD

Cleft blood flow (Botallov's duct- ductus arteriosus)

At birth, an operational duct that connects the aorta with the pulmonary artery does not close and remains open for the blood flow, thus "clean” and "dirty" blood mixes up together. This is one of the most common defects among children and young people (10%). It is more common in women than in men.

The most frustrating complication of this condition is endocarditis, leading to the aggravation of this defect and general body condition. There is only surgical treatment - artificial closure of ductus arteriosus (ligation, intersection). The conservative treatment is carried out only for the complications of the condition.

Coarctation of the aorta

This accounts for 6% to 7% of all cases of congenital heart disease. It's most often seen in men compared to women ratio of 2:1.

The appearance of symptoms is caused by hypertension and insufficient blood supply to the lower limbs. The disease makes itself known between 10 to 20 years of life.

The only radical and effective method is the surgery, which is indicated in all cases of diagnosed coarctation of the aorta. The most optimal time for the operation is the ages between the ages of 8-years-old and 14-years-old, accordingly.

The tetralogy of Fallot 

This is the most common defect, and includes four major components:

  • Ventricular septal defect, which creates the conditions for equalization of pressure in both ventricles
  • Obstruction of the exit from the right ventricle (pulmonary artery stenosis)
  • Myocardial hypertrophy of the right ventricle due to obstruction of its release
  • Dextraposition of the aorta (the aorta is located directly over the ventricular septal defect on the right)

In most patients, the symptoms appear in the first few weeks of life. In children with mild TF, symptoms may appear much later.

The disease cannot be diagnosed until the child is an infant or become more active. Physical activity is a greater load on the heart, which in turn causes the appearance of symptoms, such as:

  • Blue skin and lips due to low oxygen levels in blood
  • Shortness of breath and rapid breathing caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood
  • In older children may experience shortness of breath and fainting during physical exertion
  • The thickening of the fingertips

In severe cases, there might be a drastic worsening of symptoms, and in such case the oxygen level in the blood falls sharply.

Symptoms include:

  • Very blue lips and skin (cyanosis);
  • The child appears to have shortness of breath and becomes irritable
  • The child becomes lethargic or unconscious if the oxygen level continued to decline
  • Older children may sit in the fetal position to cope with suffocation.

The treatment is only surgical.

Is heart surgery the only way to treat CHD?

Unfortunately, serious cases require heart surgery. Medication can help to cope with complications, but it doesn't solve the problem.