Simply put, Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are one of the most common types of birth defects. The way the field of medicine has progressed has helped children with CHD to live healthier and longer lives. Proper care and advanced treatments have made children with CHD live longer and healthier lives. Today, through this blog, we will learn about CHDs in depth.
What are Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs)?
As we told you above CHD is a birth defect which is present in the baby’s heart at the time of birth. This affects the structure of the baby’s heart and the way it works. In addition, CHDs can also affect the flow of blood through the heart to the rest of the body. Depending on the form of CHDs, they can be mild (a small hole in the heart) or severe (missing or malformed heart parts).
If we look at international data, about 1 out of 4 babies born with a heart defect have symptoms of severe CHD, also known as severe congenital heart defects or cyanotic congenital heart disease. Babies who have severe CHDs symptoms may need surgery or other procedures within the first year of life.
Different types of CHDs
Listed below are the different types of CHD.
- ventricular septal defect
- atrial septal defect
- Atrioventricular septal defect
- coarctation of the aorta (severe)
- Pulmonary atresia (severe)
- single ventricle (severe)
- tricuspid atresia (severe)
- obstructed aortic arch (severe)
- double-outlet right ventricle (severe)
- Ebstein anomaly (severe)
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (severe)
- tetralogy of Fallot (severe)
What are the signs or symptoms of CHDs?
Usually, the signs or symptoms of CHDs depend on the type and severity of the CHD. Some children do not have any signs or symptoms of this defect. The baby may have the following signs or symptoms: –
- The blueness of fingernails or lips or face.
- Tiredness while feeding.
- Fast breathing
- Sweating over forehead
- Falling unconscious
How can CHD be diagnosed?
In some cases, CHDs can be diagnosed during pregnancy using a special type of ultrasound, also known as a fetal echocardiogram in medical language. This creates ultrasound pictures of the developing baby’s heart. However, in some children, CHDs are not diagnosed until after birth (even during childhood or adulthood). If a doctor suspects CHDs in a baby, he or she may recommend several tests (such as an echocardiogram) for the baby to confirm the diagnosis.
What treatments are available for CHD?
Treatment of CHDs largely depends on the type and severity of the defect present in the baby. Some affected children may require more than one surgery to repair the heart or blood vessels. In some cases, this defect is treated without surgery using a procedure called cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a long tube (catheter) is passed through the blood vessels into the heart, allowing the doctor to measure and take pictures of the defect. This helps the doctor to repair the problem.
In some rare cases, it may not be possible to completely cure the heart defect, but these procedures can improve blood flow and the way the heart works. Many people with CHDs do not make a full recovery despite surgery and these procedures.
In most cases the cause of CHDs is unknown. While in some cases babies have congenital heart defects due to changes in their genes or chromosomes. Doctors think of CHDs as a combination of genes and other factors, such as the mother’s health conditions, the mother’s diet, things in the environment, or the mother’s drug use during pregnancy.
For example, diabetes or obesity in the mother and smoking during pregnancy promotes heart defects in the baby.
What are the long-term Challenges faced by people with CHD:
- Heart Value Problems
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Arrhythmias)
- Anxiety and Depression
- Heart Infections(endocarditis)
- Heart Failure
- Need for repeat Surgeries and Procedures
Is it possible to live with CHD?
Yes, possible. With proper care and advanced treatment, children with CHD are living long and healthy lives. It is estimated that more than 2 million people live with CHD in the United States alone. Most people with CHD lead healthy lives with little or no complications, while some may develop a disability over time.
Despite the best treatment, some people do not recover completely from CHD. People with CHD may develop other health problems over time.
To lead a happy and healthy life:
Here are some steps you must follow:
- You must understand your heart defect and ask questions
- Ask if it is safe for you to get pregnant
- Keep all follow ups of medical appointments even if you are feeling well
- Meet with a heart or CHD specialist when reaching adulthood
- Maintain regular dental check-ups
- Seek emotional support as needed
- Know your health insurance options