Congenital Heart Defects in Children

Congenital heart defects in children are frightening conditions that are yet to be understood fully by cardiologists (Mayo Clinic). Ranging from a benign murmur to complete cardiac arrest, congenital heart defects are important disorders to be educated about (Fulton). Because of the potential severity of these illnesses, one should understand what is thought to cause this, forms of it, the risk involved, precautionary measures, and what the prognosis is.

By having a comprehensive view on the topic, parents, teachers, health care professionals, and day care providers can have the knowledge to recognize signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects in children and treat them accordingly (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). By having a well-rounded view of this condition, prevention and action can be taken (Fulton). The defects begin before the baby is even born. After 22 days in utero, a fetus’s heart begins to beat. At this point in development, the heart is a simple tube that will soon begin to grow and resemble a heart.

The heart then begins to bend and fold in on its self, and by the 28th day vessels and arteries creates the left and right sides of the heart. This life-sustaining organ is well on its way to becoming a full functioning pump that transports oxygen and nutrients, but at around 28 days a defect can form that could drastically alter the functioning of the heart (Mayo Clinic). Though the causes for defects are unknown, researchers believe that certain medications that the mother may have taken or even genetics could cause these flaws in the heart wall or valves (Mayo Clinic).

There are several different types of heart defects and the majority fall into specific categories. These categories rang in severity and treatment options, but all describe various characteristics of potentially life threating conditions (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). The first is holes in the heart, which allow oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to move through a hole in the heart walls. This mix of blood circulates through the child’s body and may not supply other organs with vital oxygen (Mayo Clinic). The side effects of this present themselves in numerous ways.

The second category includes various obstructions of blood flow. Arteries and vessels are developed narrower than that of a health child’s. This defect makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood, which in turn thickens and enlarges the heart muscle. As the heart wall and vessels get thicker as a result of working harder than it should, the conduits in the heart get even larger forcing the heart to work even harder. This vicious cycle continues until the heart can’t take the strain and eventually stops in full cardiac arrest (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).

The third types of defects are blood vessels that are improperly positioned around the heart that disable blood flow to the various regions of the heart. This condition can create patches of heart cells that die because of inadequate blood flow. The heart gets weaker as more and more heart cells die. Fourthly, heart valve abnormalities impede smooth blood flow to the lungs to get oxygenated. The symptoms of a heart valve abnormalities and holes in the heart wall are similar due to the lack of oxygenated blood being circulated throughout the body.

This conditions can also be combined and plague a child with multiple life-threatening illnesses (Mayo Clinic). As the child grows, so does the heart and what defects may lay in walls or valves. The child may have already begun to develop congestive heart failure. This condition can cause the heart to stop beating at any time without warning (Fulton). The heart may also have a difficult time restarting, which makes this condition especially disastrous. This serious condition will stunt the child’s growth, and may even hinder the ability to walk or talk correctly when compared to other small children his or her age.

Emotional issues can also arise because of the feeling of inadequacy to his or her peers. The child’s condition will continue to disease them if the problem was not resolved early on by surgery or medication (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). It is extremely important for a patient suffering from congenital heart defects to have regular doctors’ visits along with other important measures to maintain good health. Precautionary actions need to be taken when caring for a child with congenital heart defects, and also when planning for a baby (Mayo Clinic).

It is important for a child with heart defects to have a medication regimen, a healthy diet, and physical activity appropriate for the heart and its unique condition. This disease can prevent a child from playing sports, or even getting to excited because the increase in blood flow through the faulty heart can exacerbate the organ and could potentially cause it to fail (Fulton). Expecting mothers should also be aware of what they can do to give birth to a healthy baby.

A mother that develops Rubella during pregnancy increases her risk of giving birth to a child with a heart defect. Diabetes can also interfere with the development of the fetus’s heart. An understanding of family history is also important before conception even begins. Genetics play a large role in the future health of one’s child (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). Precautionary measures do not always guarantee a healthy child, and when a baby or toddler is diagnosed with congenital heart failure it is important to understand the prognosis.

It is possible that a child could develop healthy with an untreated heart defect, but in a majority of the cases, treatment and medication plays an important role in keeping the child healthy. Procedures to fix the defect may involve catheters that travel through the veins and into the heart to repair holes or malfunctioning valves (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). This procedure is less evasive than open-heart surgery, but could be necessary in severe cases. Unfortunately, this type of treatment may not work as well as hoped.

If this occurs, a heart transplant may be needed to spare the child’s life. Long term treatment may be in order if the child’s defect is not severe enough to perform surgery. Lifelong monitoring and treatment may be required as well as strict exercise plans mentioned previously (Mayo Clinic). By understand what is thought to cause congenital heart defects, forms of it, the risk involved, precautionary measures, and what the prognosis is, a parent, teacher, healthcare provider, or an expecting mother can take action against this devastating condition.

The causes may not be fully understood, but studies show that they health of a child relies heavily on the heath of the parents (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). Much more is known about how to treat these conditions and potentially prevent full cardiac arrest and other complications. It is important to remember the risk involved in this condition and the prudency of regular doctors’ visits. Information on this topic could potentially save a child’s life.

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