Understanding the disease

Congenital Heart Disease is a deformity of the heart, present at birth. The deformity can be observed in either the heart valves, heart walls or the blood vessels. The defects of Congenital Heart Disease can vary from simple conditions that do not produce any symptoms to complex conditions that could prove to be fatal.

Common Congenital Heart Diseases:

  • Stenosis of the valves
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Coarctation of aorta
  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Tetralogy of Fallot

Signs and Symptoms

Congenital Heart Disease can be detected during pregnancy through an Ultrasound Scan. Abnorma heartbeat is a sign of Congenital Heart Disease. Further, appropriate diagnosis is performed by results observed from the Echocardiogram, MRI scan, and X-ray.

The clinical symptoms of a newborn with Congenital Heart Disease include:

  • Poor feeding
  • Low birth weight
  • Delayed growth
  • Bluish discoloration of the lips, fingers, toes and skin
  • Shortness of breath

In individuals who display symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease a few years after birth, the signs are:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling
  • Irregular heart rhythms

Treatment options

The choice of treatment for Congenital Heart Disease depends on the type and the severity of the condition. Certain heart defects heal over time, while most heart defects require the use of medication and surgical interventions. Certain medications are used to treat blood clots, and irregular heartbeat caused due to Congenital Heart Disease. In severe conditions, surgical intervention is a choice of treatment for Congenital Heart Disease. Examples of surgical interventions include open heart surgery, catheter insertion and heart transplant.

How is the procedure performed?

  • Implantable heart device: A battery-assisted device is placed under the skin, which acts as a pacemaker that helps in regulating normal heartbeat. The pacemaker corrects irregular heartbeats, thus minimizing the risk of life-threatening conditions.
  • Catheter procedures: A long thin tube (catheter) is inserted, by making an incision into the blood vessels. Then the doctor places certain tools that are threaded through the catheter, which help to correct the congenital defect.
  • Open-heart surgery: An open-heart surgery is performed to repair the valves or walls of the heart, when the congenital defect cannot be rectified through catheter procedures.
  • Heart transplant: In rare cases, the doctor may choose to replace the diseased heart with a healthy heart, when the condition is too complex to be rectified by the above procedures.

Pre-procedure care:

  • Inform your doctor if you are suffering from symptoms of infection such as body aches, fever or sore throat.
  • Inform the doctor about the use of antibiotics used to treat any underlying infection.

Post-procedure care:

  • Follow a nutritious diet, as children or adults with Congenital Heart Disease lack nourishment during treatment.
  • The extent of physical activity should be clarified with the physician or surgeon.
  • Take the prescribed medications as directed by your doctor, as they enable the healthy functioning of the heart.

Why should you get treated?

Congenital Heart Disease causes severe complications that prove to be fatal if left untreated. Children who survive with a heart defect, may show slow physical and mental growth, and delayed developmental milestones. The children may feed poorly, and have activity intolerance. Many may go into cyanotic spells (bluish discoloration of the body due to inadequate oxygen) during simple activities like playing.

The outlook of Congenital Heart Disease has changed over the years, as advancement in medical technology has enabled children treated with the condition to survive to adulthood. However, regular medical consultation is necessary to maintain good health in the long run.