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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hurdles Faced by Children with Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the most common type of congenital malformation worldwide. Approximately, 1 in every 100 babies are born with CHD, and 1 in 4 births with critical CHD. Despite recent advances in the treatment, CHD remains the first cause of death in children with congenital malformations. But the good news is that globally, with advanced technologies and improved research in children’s heart treatment, the annual mortality rate of CHD among children has declined.


The signs and symptoms of CHD vary in severity, type of CHD and duration as the child grows. Different kinds of congenital heart defects can impact children of all ages, often starting right at birth. Children with CHD might exhibit symptoms which the parents might not understand or might overlook.

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The cause of CHD is still unknown, but research has shown that if one of the parents have CHD, there is a probability that the children can also have the same. (hereditary). Another cause could be the exposure of the developing fetus of a woman to toxic substances during her pregnancy. In addition, there are many other causes leading to CHD.

Children diagnosed with certain congenital heart defects at birth suffer from

  • Mixing of pure and impure blood leading to less saturation in the body.
  • Excess flow of blood to the lungs leading to an increase in lung pressure.
  • Inadequate flow of blood to the lower limbs.


The signs and symptoms include fatigue or rapid breathing. For instance:

  • The child may look skinny and perhaps more frail than other children of the same age.
  • Inadequate growth lower than most children of their age.
  • The child may be slower to reach developmental milestones than healthy children, such as rolling over, sitting, walking, talking and learning.
  • The child may turn blue in colour due to poor oxygen content in the blood (also called cyanosis)

In certain cases, children with CHD can have significant emotional problems too, such as anxiety or depression. Such feelings are more often seen in children with more severe heart defects. Recent studies have also shown that if a child has an intellectual delay or emotional dysfunction before surgery, it is likely to persist after surgery also.

It is more common for psychological or emotional problems to surface during the adolescent years, when the child becomes more self-aware and faces more challenges.

Children heart treatment depends on the specific type of heart problem and its severity. Sometimes, a congenital heart defect may have no long-term effect on a child’s health. Other congenital heart defects, such as a small hole in the heart (less than or equal to 2mm), may close as the child develops.

Serious congenital heart defects require treatment soon after they’re diagnosed. Children’s heart treatment may involve medications, heart procedures or surgeries, or a heart transplant. For catheter based interventions, doctors insert a catheter near the groin region of the child and push an external device along with the catheter to be placed over the hole of the heart. In complex cases, the doctors might recommend surgical procedures or a heart transplant to offer the highest quality of life.

Children who are diagnosed with the most basic kind of CHD and who were able to undergo the heart treatment at the right time (complete repair) will most likely not experience any restrictions and can go back to living normal lives including engaging in sports. Even a child with a moderate CHD, where the defect is corrected, usually doesn’t have any restrictions. But if it is a complex heart condition, the doctor may advise to be self-limiting, meaning the children will be advised to go back to their routine at their own pace.


There are also certain Heart Foundation India which support the medical surgeries of children suffering with CHD so that they get a chance at life. The future for children living with congenital heart defects is also very encouraging as new technologies are evolving where the most serious type of cardiac issues are being addressed through less-invasive procedures. Certain studies and research reveal promising results of certain children’s heart treatment with reference to the long-term care of children and adults with congenital heart defects.


References:


What Is Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease? – Conquering CHD

Intellectual development and children with heart disease (aboutkidshealth.ca)

Long-Term Effects of Congenital Heart Disease – Children’s Health (childrens.com)

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