Last year, when I felt my heart was beating faster than normal, I never knew it was something called tachycardia which can seriously disrupt normal heart function, increase the risk of stroke, or cause sudden cardiac arrest or death. I assumed it must be due to stress or something similar until my heart was beating rate of more than 220 per minute and I had to call an ambulance.
I was surprised that I was suffering from a heart condition I did not even know it existed and this was the condition I was born with.
Similarly, Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) which is a structural abnormality of the heart, present at birth also which calls for attention and awareness among general masses. The defect is present mostly in the blood vessels near the heart, thereby causing obstruction in the blood flow. Since, heart diseases are associated with old and heavy people in the mind of masses, many times children who are born with CHD come as a shock to the parents. They have a tough time accepting that their child is having heart disease. If the child is born in a hospital, the defects are generally caught immediately after birth, however in some cases it may be discovered later.
Out of every 1000 children born in India. 3.9 of them will either suffer from Cyanotic CHD where the skin becomes blue, due to the lack of oxygen or the Non Cyanotic also known as Acyanotic which does not cause bluish tinge in the skin.
Though the exact cause for CHD is unidentifiable in most cases. Infection from Rubella virus along with retinoic acids and chemicals during pregnancy may be a factor for CHD.
Parents should be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of CHD. Many things like Down’s syndrome, a mother suffering from conditions like diabetes, rubella, or using anti-seizure medication or anti acne medication along with genetic predisposition can cause CHD in a baby.
Pregnant women should avoid smoking and consuming alcohol during pregnancy since it can lead to CHD in a baby.
If a baby has a purple or blue tinge on the skin, especially around lips, ears or mouth or is breathing fast, having difficulty in taking in breaths, sweats while feeding, cannot suckle properly or refuses to feed, it is time to check out your child for CHD
Even though CHD is often seen in children, it also occurs in adults in some rare incidences. It often requires surgery to improve heart functioning. If an adult is suffering from Arrhythmia, Cyanosis, Short breaths, dizziness, has oedema in body tissues or tires quickly it is better to check for CHD.
Today, diagnosis and treatment for Congenital Heart Disease is possible with multispecialty hospitals and cardiologists available to us. Manipal hospitals had been a pioneer leaders in providing help for the for CHD through their diagnostic tools like Echocardiography (echo) which is a painless test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart and ECG (Electrocardiogram) is a simple, painless test that records the heart’s electrical activity. The test shows how fast the heart is beating and its rhythm (steady or irregular. Further we have at hospitals tests like Pulse Oximetry test which has a small sensor is attached to a finger or toe like an adhesive bandage which gives an estimate of how much oxygen is in the blood.
Chest X-Ray is the old yet dependable test that creates pictures of the structures in the chest, such as the heart and lungs. This test can show whether the heart is enlarged. It also can show whether the lungs have extra blood flow or extra fluid, a sign of heart failure.
Once diagnosed, treatment for CHD is decided based on the severity of the condition.
1. Cardiac Catheterization: A repair without surgical opening in the chest wall and heart
2. Open-heart surgery: There are two surgical procedures; one is a minimally invasive surgery which repairs the openings in the heart chambers through the ribs; whereas the chest is opened in an open-heart surgery. Both are major procedures and require a significant recovery time for a child.
3. Heart transplant: Heart transplant is generally a last resort, only used when the above mentioned procedures are unsuccessful.
To not ignore the heart once the treatment is over. Kindly follow up regularly to know that your heart is safe and so are you.