Congenital Heart disease
Congenital heart disease is a structural abnormality of the heart present at birth. The defect is usually present in the blood vessels near the heart, which obstructing the blood flow. There are two types of congenital disease: cyanotic (the skin becomes blue in colour due to lack of oxygen) and non cyanotic. The exact cause of the disease is not identified in most cases. However, retinoic acids, chemicals, alcohol and infection with rubella virus during pregnancy may be a factor for congenital heart problems.
According to a study published in the India Academy of Paediatrics, congenital heart disease is a condition seen in every 3.9 births per 1000 births in India. As described by Dr Amar Singhal, ‘ Congenital heart disease is a defect in the heart at the time of birth. It is the structural or functional malfunctioning of the heart that is caused during its formation. While in some cases these defects are caught right after birth, in other cases it may be reported later on in the child’s life.’
According to Dr Amar Singhal, ‘The cause of congenital heart disease is unknown, but it is believed that the defect occurs when there is some obstruction in the formation of the foetus’ heart. The heart of the foetus is formed from a tube-like structure, around the fifth week of pregnancy. Any factor that stops this formation can lead to congenital heart disease.’
There are a number of things that can lead to this condition in a baby, including genetic predisposition, if the baby has Down ’s syndrome, if the mother suffers from conditions like diabetes (type 1 and type 2,but not gestational diabetes), infections like rubella or flu, takes medication like anti seizure medication, pain killers like ibuprofen, or anti acne medication. Other factors like smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant, can also lead to this condition in a baby.
Read about 6 risk-factors of heart disease.
The common symptoms a child may suffer from vary, but Dr Amar says that the common symptoms a parent should look out for are –
- Arecyanosis (blue or purple appearance of the skin – especially the lips, ears and mouth)
- Increased respiratory rate or difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating during feeding
- Not being able to suckle
- Not accepting feed and when the child becomes unconscious.
Here is detailed information on 7 symptoms of congenital heart disease.
The preliminary diagnosis is based on the symptoms that the child comes to the doctor with, but confirming the disease is done by clinical examination like –
- ECG (Electrocardiogram)
- Chest X-ray
- Detailed 2D Echocardiogram
Dr Amar says, ‘A child has both medical and surgical options depending on the severity of the symptoms. Usually if the symptoms of the child persist or he/she is not responding to medical intervention, a doctor may opt for surgical intervention.’ ‘The treatment can cost anywhere two to three lakhs depending on the severity of the condition.’
What questions should a parent ask their doctor before opting for a treatment plan and during diagnosis?
Dr Amar says that this is a very taxing time for parents, and can be quite confusing too. He suggests that parents should ask their doctor about the chances of survival of their child after the treatment, how difficult it will be for the child to cope, what should they be ready for after the treatment (any disabilities or special needs the child may have), what the complications of the surgery are and what is the doctor’s prognosis for the child.
The content has been verified by
Dr Amar Singhal
, HOD, Cardiology, Delhi based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute
‘A child can definitely live normally once they are treated appropriately. In fact one of the most common questions I get from parents of girl babies with this condition is – will she be able to have children despite having CHD? – And I say yes. She can carry a child to term and deliver absolutely normally. All this, barring the fact that a woman does not have any complications in her pregnancy,’ says Dr Amar.
Here are few things a mother can do during her pregnancy to help avoid this condition. Dr Amar advices that a pregnant women should avoid
- Getting infections
- If she develops rubella syndrome, she should think about terminating the pregnancy.
Apart from these, she should also ensure that she has a proper balanced diet and gets regular checkups from her gynaecologist.
The content has been verified by
Dr Dr Amar Singhal
, HOD, Cardiology, Delhi based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.