Congenital Heart Disease in Children

If your child was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, it means that they were born with this issue. Most of these defects in children don’t require treatment and are relatively simple. However, there are others that are more difficult and may require a few surgeries over a period of several years. It is important that you gain as much knowledge as possible when it comes to your child’s heart defect since it can help you understand what to expect in the future.

Symptoms of CHD

Congenital heart disease that is serious is normally noticed following birth or within the first few months of a baby’s life. Symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Blue or pale gray skin color
  • Swelling around the eyes, belly, and the legs
  • Shortness of breath during feedings
  • Poor weight gain

Less-serious symptoms of congenital heart disease include:

  • Fainting during activity or exercise
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, or hands
  • Easily exhausted during activity or exercising
  • Becoming short of breath easily during activity or exercise

Less serious heart defects may not be obvious or diagnosed until later in childhood.

Causes of CHD

During the first six weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, the heart begins to form and begins to beat. The major blood vessels that run to and from the heart also begin to develop. This is the point in your baby’s development that heart defects may start to develop. Although researchers aren’t certain what causes the majority of these heart defects, they believe it has something to do with certain medical conditions, genetics, certain medications, and lifestyle factors such as smoking.

There are also a few different types of congenital heart defects that a baby may develop, such as:

  • Abnormal connections in the blood vessels or heart
  • Congenital heart valve problems
  • Combination of congenital heart defects

Some examples of congenital heart defects include:

  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Pulmonary atresia
  • Transportation of the great arteries
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

Diagnosing & Treating CHD

Some heart defects can be diagnosed even before birth, while the baby is still in the womb. Following birth, diagnosing a heart defect may become obvious if your child has abnormal growth and appears blue, or your doctor hears an abnormal heart sound while listening to your child’s heart.

There are various tests that can be used to detect congenital heart defects including:

  • Pulse oximetry
  • ECG or EKG
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Heart magnetic resonance imaging

Treatment for CHD in children depends on the particular type of heart issue and the severity of it. Many times, a heart defect may not have any long-term effects on your child and it may be left safely untreated. Additionally, certain defects, such as small holes, may close up as your child grows.

However, serious heart defects do require treatment following diagnosis. Treatment may consist of heart procedures, medications, or a heart transplant.

Medications include:

  • Drugs for blood pressure
  • Diuretics
  • Heart rhythm drugs

Surgery may include:

  • Fetal cardiac intervention
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Heart surgery
  • Heart transplant