Congenital Heart Defects - Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Diagnosis of heart defects

Some heart defects are detected or at least suspected during ultrasound examinations during pregnancy. Others are noticeable at the first examination immediately after birth. Still others are later diagnosed by complaints or accidentally - some only in adulthood.

How are congenital heart defects diagnosed?

According to the current state of diagnostic technology, more complex dysfunctions of the cardiovascular system can be detected with high accuracy during pregnancy by ultrasound. The final backup of the diagnosis takes place after birth or, in the case of complaints, again by cardiac ultrasound or cardiac catheterization.

In this procedure, plastic catheters are advanced over the groin through the vascular system to the heart, where pressure measurements and the use of X-ray contrast agents accurately define the type and severity of the heart defect.

Complications of congenital heart disease

If the neonatal period is survived, threaten depending on the nature and degree of congenital heart defects and the emerging pathological circulatory conditions:

  • Heart failure
  • Strain on pulmonary circulation with pulmonary hypertension
  • Oxygen deficiency of the organs
  • Thickening of the blood as a result of increased production of red blood cells

The increase in red blood cells, which, as a reaction of the organism in the absence of oxygen, should ensure an increased oxygen transport capacity of the blood, in turn means an increased risk of vascular thrombosis and strokes. Even with timely, successful heart surgery already in early childhood, the life expectancy of children is significantly limited, at least with severe congenital heart disease.

Treatment of congenital heart disease through cardiac surgery

The treatment of congenital heart disease is primarily the domain of cardiac surgery. Corresponding to the variety of forms of heart defects, there is also a wide variety of different surgical techniques. If there is a realistic chance of normalizing blood flow and cardiovascular conditions through cardiac surgery, thereby prolonging or at least alleviating the child's life, it is above all the time of major cardiac surgery that is crucial. In individual cases, a life-saving emergency procedure must be operated immediately after birth.

Treat congenital heart defects in children

In other cases, a relieving operation may be considered in early childhood that may not normalize circulatory conditions but at least stabilize enough to try to correct the anomaly as part of one or more follow-up surgeries. Ideally, the large, if possible, corrective heart surgery will occur at the age at which the least possible risk and best long term outcomes are expected after surgery.

In addition to heart surgery, an attempt can be made to stabilize the cardiovascular conditions at any stage of the disease by medication, but the chances of success in this regard are rather low. Today, nine out of ten patients reach adulthood. However, they are usually chronically ill and, due in part to subsequent illnesses, usually have limited ability to perform and work and less life expectancy.

Congenital heart defects: Prevent and prevent

Genetically induced congenital damage to the heart can not be prevented. If a child has already been born with a heart defect, it can be examined in individual cases by hereditary specialists to what extent there is a risk of recurrence for another child. In order to prevent damage to the unborn child during pregnancy due to external influences, all additional risk factors such as medication or infections should be eliminated as far as possible during this time in close consultation with the supervising physician.

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