Pediatric Heart Disease

Pediatric Heart Disease Image

A variety of heart problems can develop in unborn fetuses, contributing to the presence of different forms of heart diseases in newborns. While some of these heart conditions occur as the result of unhealthy pregnancies, others arise because the infant is born premature and, therefore, has an underdeveloped heart.

In some cases, doctors can detect heart defects before birth using an echocardiogram, an imaging test that uses sound waves to create an image of the heart. Looking at this image, doctors can see whether or not the heart is developing in a healthy manner. Similarly, a physician may also diagnose a pediatric heart condition if he detects a heart murmur, which is a clicking sound that indicates abnormal heart functioning.

If doctors identify heart conditions in unborn fetuses, they can usually take special precautions during and immediately after delivery to get the infant ready for immediate treatment that may save his life.

However, doctors can’t always detect pediatric heart conditions during a mother’s pregnancy. In these cases, heart problems typically make themselves apparent immediately after birth during the routine exams doctors perform on newborns.

In this section, we will outline the various types of heart conditions that can affect infants. Our articles discuss the symptoms, treatments and prognoses of each pediatric heart condition.

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is a condition marked by an especially narrow aorta artery, which significantly impedes blood circulation throughout the body. Those suffering from aortic stenosis are likely to suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue regularly, but mainly after any physical exertion. Balloon dilation and cardiac catheterization are among the common treatments for aortic stenosis.

Pulmonary Stenosis

Like aortic stenosis, pulmonary stenosis is heart problem marked by the narrowing of a significant artery in the body, namely the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery is responsible for transporting oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs where it is to receive more oxygen.

When an infant or child suffers from pulmonary stenosis, blood is insufficiently oxygenated, causing patients to suffer from chest pain and cyanosis, the bluing of skin due to lack of oxygen. While mild cases don’t require treatment, surgery may be necessary for more severe instances of pulmonary stenosis.

Tetralogy of Fallot

As one of the most serious heart conditions that can affect infants, tetralogy of the Fallot is actually a combination of four heart problems:

  • overriding aorta
  • pulmonary stenosis
  • right ventricular hypertrophy
  • ventricular septal defect.

Although researchers are still investigating the causes of this complex heart condition, doctors suspect that family history of heart problems, chromosomal mutations and unhealthy pregnancies all contribute to the development of tetralogy of the Fallot. While doctors often detect this condition before the infant is born (through the use of an echocardiogram), in some cases, the condition remains undiagnosed until after birth.

Once a doctor has identified this condition, the patient will have to undergo a series of operations to correct tetralogy of the Fallot.

Transposition of the Great Arteries

Affecting about four out every 10,000 infants, transposition of the arteries is a serious heart defect in which the two main arteries of the heart have switched places. This condition seriously interrupts the process of oxygenating and circulating blood throughout the body. If left untreated, 90 percent of affected infants will die. As a result, surgery is essential to saving the lives of infants suffering from transposition of the great arteries.

Resources

American Heart Association (2007). Aortic stenosis. (AS). Retrieved September 4, 2007, from the AHA Web site: www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1659.

Cincinnati Children’s’ Hospital Medical Center (n.d.). Transposition of the great arteries. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from the Cincinnati Children’s’ Hospital Medical Center Web site: www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/heart-encyclopedia/anomalies/transposition.htm.

U.S National Library of Medicine (2007). Pulmonary valve stenosis. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from the Medlineplus Web site:www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001096.htm.