Dr. Srinivas L, Pediatric Cardiologist, Jupiter Hospital, Mumbai
When a child is born, the first thing every parent wants to know is whether the baby is healthy. But imagine that moment when parents hear the words, “Your child has a congenital heart defect.” Heart diseases are often considered as age-related associated with medical conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. We usually do not imagine infants suffering from any heart ailments. Structural heart defects are congenital, i.e those present at birth and at least one in 1000 new-born babies is affected by them. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are leading cause of mortality in India after malnutrition in young children. On an average, approximately 2,50,000 new-born babies are diagnosed with congenital heart defects or CHDs every year in our country.
Symptoms vary in every child; be it defects in the heart chambers obstructing the blood or presence of holes in the heart. Factors such as genetic mutation, environmental conditions and a mother’s lifestyle play a major role in keeping a child’s heart healthy. CHD is a serious cardiac condition that can either present as a life-threatening event or can stalls a child’s growth, cause fatigue, breathlessness, feeding difficulty and frequent respiratory infections. Worrisome part of the story is unawareness. Even when, today we have best treatment options available for pediatric cardiac care, a large section of the society is away from access to these life-saving procedures.
CHD can be a threat to life that demands timely referrals, proactive diagnosis and immediate treatment. Credit it to technology, we now have novel procedures and devices like occluders that aid in treating patients by minimally invasive techniques.
Knowing more about Heart Defects
There are two kinds of heart defects — Cyanotic and Acyanotic. When a baby is born blue due to lack of oxygenated blood and the symptoms can be prominent from a young age. Such babies are known to have cyanotic heart defect. Tetrology of Fallot is one such heart disease. Many babies present with life threatening emergency soon after birth and may require immediate surgery or cardiac intervention to save the life.
The symptoms can vary from one patient to another, in the case of acyanotic heart defects. For instance, Ventricular Septal Defect or VSD is a condition in which a hole exists in the lower chambers of the heart. Due to the presence of a hole in the wall that divides right and left side of the heart, the blood flows from the left heart to right side, putting excess volume and increased pressure on the right side called pulmonary hypertension. Patent ductus arteriosus or PDA is another example where there is failure of the ductus arteriosus to close soon after the baby is born and pose similar problems like in a child with VSD. Both the lesions can be cured with timely intervention.
CHD is a critical medical condition, hence, there is a dire need to raise awareness among masses about the availability of new medical interventions. Time of corrective surgery is a crucial factor in deciding patient outcomes. Let’s look at how early treatment and minimally invasive pediatric care can significantly improve life expectancy of babies with heart defects.
Technological Intervention to aid new-borns live a healthy life
Due to giant leaps in pediatric care, we now have technologies that promise to render life-saving treatment options to give children a normal life expectancy without resurfacing of the symptoms in the future. For example, a patient suffering with PDA can be treated and assured a risk-free life. For decades, conventionally, open heart surgeries were the only ways of treating cardiac ailments but with advent in healthcare technology, patients can now be operated by a minimally invasive procedure. As step one, a patient is screened through echocardiography to identify heart defects. Once the disease has been diagnosed, the doctor can suggest appropriate prognosis. New-age devices such as occluders are used to fix heart problems. These devices are placed on the hole or heart defect via tiny needle hole in the veins with help of catheters and sheaths. Once the device is placed appropriately, this is a permanent fix for the selected heart defects.
There is a misconception that a child must attain certain weight to undergo a surgery, which no longer exists. Children of even 600-700 grams weight have been treated for CHD. The entire surgical procedure is extremely safe and in my own career, I have treated over 2500 patients with cardiac interventions with extremely good results. Scientific improvement in pediatric cardiac care is ushering hopes of better health outcomes for babies with CHDs. Therefore, along with timely referrals and corrective surgeries, parents need to abide by regular follow-ups with the doctor to ensure quick recovery of the babies.
Dr. Srinivas L is a Pediatric Cardiologist in Thane West, Thane and has an experience of 21 years in this field. Dr. Srinivas L practices at Jupiter Hospital in Thane West, Thane and Jupiter Hospital Speciality Clinic in Mulund West, Mumbai. He completed MBBS from Shri B.M Patil Medical College, Karnataka University in 1999, DNB – Paediatrics from Amrita Institute of Medical Science, NBE, New Delhi in 2006 and FNB – Paediatric Cardiology from Amrita Institute of.Medical Science, NBE, New Delhi in 2009.