Congenital Heart Defects (CHD)
What is a chd?
Congenital Heart Defects are birth defects of the heart.
When the heart is forming, it twists and turns. Sometimes in the process,
it doesn't form the way it should causing a defect. The
heart is already forming before the mother even knows she
is pregnant. Defects range in severity from simple defects, such as
Ventricular or atrial septal defects, (Which is a hole between chambers of
the heart), to very severe defects, such as one or more chambers not developing
at all. There are 35 different types of chds.
does this happen?
In most cases, scientists do not know what makes a
baby's heart defect develop. Some environmental factors are involved
including women who contract rubella during the first three months of pregnancy
are at high risk and some other viral infections may also contribute.
Certain medicines also increase the risk of having a baby with a congenital
(used to treat certain forms of mental illness)
Certain anti-seizure medications
alcohol or using cocaine in pregnancy also can increase the risk of heart
illnesses in the mother can also increase the risk of heart defects. For
example, women with diabetes are at increased risk, although the risk can be
reduced or eliminated if the diabetes is closely controlled, starting before
pregnancy. Women with Phenylketonuria (PKU) are also at high risk, unless
they follow a special diet before pregnancy and during the first trimester.
Several studies suggest that women who do not consume enough of the B vitamin
folic acid before and during the early weeks of pregnancy are at increased risk
of having a baby with a heart defect.
characteristics play little part in causing congenital heart defects.
However, after having a child with a chd, your risk is slightly higher.
"In fact, scientists have recently discovered more than 100 mutations (changes)
in more than a dozen genes that directly impair the heart. many of these
mutations cause cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart) or heart rhythm
disturbances that can be fatal in childhood, adolescence or adulthood."
However, scientists also have pinpointed several mutations that affect the
formation of the heart,
leading to congenital heart
malformations. For example, in 1999 a March of Dimes grantee at the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas discovered a gene that appears to
contribute to a common, important group of malformations affecting the
tract and the blood vessels arising from it. Researchers at Harvard Medical
School identified a gene responsible for the
heart defect called atrial septal defect (a
hole between the upper chambers of the heart) in four families with multiple
members affected by heart disease. The same
another gene mutation that causes atrial septal defects accompanied by arm and hand
malformations (Holt-Oram syndrome). Researchers
appear to be on the brink of discovering the genes
that underlie numerous heart defects. They have recently
that direct development of the embryonic heart in mice. This should greatly
improve our understanding of these
human counterparts—and possibly lead to ways to prevent the various heart
defects that mutations of those genes
of congenital heart defects are syndrome related. This means that a heart
defect may accompany a syndrome such as Velo
Cardio Facial Syndrome (V.C.F.S.), Trisomy 21 (Downs), Turner,
Noonan, Alagille, Marfan and Williams syndromes.
In about 80% of cases a heart defect is usually a
chance occurrence in the complex development of the heart. Which
means that they don't have a reason or a cause. There
are surgeries that can be done to help with CHD, but they are
risky and may not always work. However, most chds are mild and
may not require any surgery at all. While we have come a long way, we
need so much more. There is "NO" known prevention of CHD's and
that's what we need! You can help by raising awareness or
money for much needed research.
How often does it occur?
Most say it occurs in 1 in 100 live births, but the information given to come up
with this number isn't exactly accurate. (Not all cases get reported)
So, some say that it is really more accurate to say that 3 to 4 out of
every 100 babies born are born with some sort of birth defect.
Of those babies born with heart defects, 1 in 10 of those babies will have a
fatal congenital heart defect. Thus, 11 babies die every day
from CHDs!!! On average, there are 40,000 babies born in the U.S. each YEAR with
a congenital heart defect. That equals out to about 112.9 a
DAY or 4.7 an HOUR!!! If you or other family members have
already had a baby with a heart defect, your risk of having a baby with heart
disease may be higher. It is estimated that over 1,000,000 Americans
have a congenital heart defect.
What are the symptoms?
Severe heart defects are usually diagnosed shortly after birth (within the first
3 months). Some are diagnosed while the mother is still pregnant through
ultrasound. Some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly
after birth. Other defects cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems, or
poor weight gain. some will tire more easily, especially after feeding.
Minor defects are most often diagnosed on a routine medical check up. Minor
defects rarely cause symptoms. While most heart murmurs in children are normal,
some may be due to defects. (American heart association)
What can be done?
Today, most heart defects can be treated. Some
require surgery, medicine or artificial valves or pacemakers. Half the
children who require surgery do so before their second birthday. Early
corrective surgery often prevents development of additional complications and
allows the child to live a more normal life sooner. However, with surgery
comes numerous possibilities of complications and these should be reviewed and
discussed with your doctor.
Is the problem serious?
Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect and are the number one
cause of death from birth defects during the first year of life. Nearly twice
as many children die from congenital heart disease in the United States
each year as die from all forms of childhood cancers combined.
life years are lost each year in the U.S. due to congenital heart disease.
Charges for care exceed 2.2 billion dollars, for inpatient surgery
research being done now enough?
Not nearly enough. Compared
to adult acquired heart disease, less information is known regarding optimal
treatments and outcomes for most congenital heart defects. Although nearly
twice as many children die each year from congenital heart disease
compared with childhood cancers, funding for pediatric cancer research is 5
times higher than for congenital heart disease. (American heart association)
Disclaimer: The contents of this site
are presented for INFORMATIONAL purposes only, and should NOT be substituted for
professional advice. Always consult your (child's) physicians with your
questions and concerns.
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