Congenital heart defects refer to defects in the heart that a child is born with. Congenital heart disease treatment varies with the type and severity of the defect.
A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a congenital heart defect where there is a hole in the septum between the 2 pumping chambers of the heart – the ventricles. This occurs during development of the baby when the ventricular septum does not form properly.
VSD occurs in 0.1-0.4% of all live births and is the most common type of congenital heart defect.
In a normal heart, oxygenated blood is pumped to the body on the left side and deoxygenated blood is pumped to the lungs on the right side. The function of the septum is to keep oxygenated and deoxygenated blood separated, however the VSD allows mixing to occur. This requires the heart to work harder to ensure the body receives the oxygen that it requires.
There is no clear cause for a VSD, but it is thought that both genetics and environment play a role, this can include things such as maternal diabetes and exposure to infections during pregnancy.
The symptoms that are experienced by the child depend upon the size of the defect. If the defect is very small, the child may not experience any symptoms and may only be diagnosed by chance later in life. If however the defect is large, there is an increased amount of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mixing together, this causes a variety of issues including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor weight gain
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Heart failure in severe and untreated cases
Diagnosis (Link to Ways of diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects – Blog (genesis-foundation.net))
A diagnosis of a Ventricular Septal Defect may be made at various times depending on access to healthcare.
- During ultrasound examinations in pregnancy, the scan may detect an abnormality with the heart.
- When an examination of a newborn occurs, the doctor may hear a murmur when listening to the heart.
- A child may be brought to hospital later in life with some of the symptoms mentioned above.
The patient will normally undergo additional investigations such as an Echocardiography (Ultrasound scan of the heart), Electrocardiogram (ECG) and a Chest X-ray. These tests will help determine the size of the defect, the impact it is having on the child and also the type of treatment that they will require.
Congenital Heart Disease Treatment
Congenital heart defect treatment for a VSD the child will receive depend on factors such as the size and location of their defect.
In a patient with a very small VSD it may close as they get older; they will just require monitoring to ensure they are not suffering from any symptoms.
Some children will be treated using cardiac catheterization, this is when a device is inserted into the patient’s heart via a blood vessel in the groin to close the hole in the septum, thereby relieving the symptoms experienced.
Other children with a more complex or large VSD may require open heart surgery, here the surgeon will close the hole with a patch. This will either be with a piece of the patient’s pericardium (a sac that the heart is contained within) or a synthetic material.
With an early diagnosis and a timely congenital heart defect treatment of a VSD, patients can live normal healthy lives. They will continue to have regular check ups throughout their life but are able to be active and not restrict themselves in any way.
This is a treatable condition as long as children get access to the healthcare that they need, this also highlights the importance of scanning during pregnancy and thorough check-ups of a baby.