Genetic or environmental factors can cause a hole in your child’s heart at birth

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Congenital heart defect is the most common type of birth defect. These are mainly structural problems that arise due to abnormal formation of the heart.

We constantly insist on taking care of our heart because it is the most crucial organ in our body for staying alive. But what if the heart has a problem at the time of the birth itself? It is an extremely worrying scenario.

When a baby is born with a heart defect, it is called a congenital heart defect. These defects are the most common types of birth defects. Congenital heart defects (CHD) are mainly structural problems that arise due to abnormal formation of the heart. Coronary heart disease can range from being completely asymptomatic to having life-threatening complications. Some coronary heart disease in children is straightforward and does not require treatment. While others are more complex and may require multiple surgeries over a period of years.

Both CHDs and Small VSDs (Ventricular Septal Defect) are compatible with normal life, most of the time without any intervention. While complex coronary heart disease like the absence of one of the valves causes the child to show symptoms soon after birth requiring early surgery.

Many times, no specific reason is found for the congenital heart defect. From genetic factors to environmental factors, it could be anything that could affect a baby’s heart formation in the womb. This, in turn, affects the functioning of the heart, which has an additional impact on blood flow.

Congenital heart defects can be of different types. Some of the CHDs are:

Heart valve abnormalities, where a valve may be completely closed or is very narrow, making it difficult for blood to pass. In some cases, the valve may not close properly, causing blood to leak backwards.

Problems with the “walls” of the heart, which could be those between the chambers of the heart.
Passages or holes between the left and right sides of the heart can cause blood to mix when it shouldn’t.

Problems with the heart muscle can even cause heart failure, which means the heart won’t be pumping as efficiently as it should.

Bad connections between blood vessels: here the blood that should go to the lungs goes into the body, or vice versa. These defects can then deprive the blood of oxygen, leading to further complications.

Coronary heart disease can hamper a child’s growth, especially large VSDs which bring a lot of blood into the lung fields and cause babies to have difficulty breathing and feeding quickly. It is quite possible to have a birth defect related to the heart and not have symptoms. However, if observed, symptoms of early childhood congenital heart disease may include:

Rapid breathing
Feeding difficulties
Not gaining weight
Turns blue (bluish tinge to skin, nails and lips) Irritable
Frequent lung infections
Lung infections
Not being able to exercise

Coronary heart disease can be diagnosed as early as fetal life, that is, during pregnancy. After birth, it can be detected immediately. Based on symptoms and physical examination, coronary artery disease is suspected and then confirmed by tests such as echocardiography.

Possible treatment for coronary artery disease includes medication, surgery or laboratory catheterization, and a long
follow-up at term.

Dr Sejal Shah, Senior Consultant in Pediatric and Fetal Cardiology, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road


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