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Congenital Heart Defects


A congenital heart defect (CHD) is a structural problem with the heart that’s present at birth. Such defects result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception – often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.
To understand congenital heart defects, it’s helpful to remember how the heart is meant to function.
A normal heart has valves, arteries and chambers that circulate blood in a recurring pattern: body to heart, heart to lungs, lungs to heart and then heart out to the body.
When all the chambers and valves work correctly, blood is pumped through the heart, to the lungs for oxygen, back to the heart and then throughout the body to deliver that oxygen.
When valves, chambers, arteries and veins are malformed, this circulation pattern can be impaired.
Congenital heart defects range in severity from simple problems, such as “holes” between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as the complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can have a child with a congenital heart defect. Out of 1,000 births, at least eight babies will have some form of congenital heart disorder, most of which are mild. If you or other family members have already had a baby with a heart defect, your risk of having a baby with a heart defect may be higher.
Why do congenital heart defects occur?
Most of the time, the cause isn’t known. Although the reason defects occur is presumed to be genetic, only a few genes have been discovered that have been linked to heart defects.
Rarely, the ingestion of some drugs and the occurrence of some infections during pregnancy can cause defects.
How can I tell if my baby or child has a congenital heart defect?
Severe heart disorders generally become evident during the first few months after birth. Some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly after birth. Other defects cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems or poor weight gain. If you notice any of these things, consult with your pediatrician.
What is the impact of congenital heart disease on families?
A serious congenital heart defect can put an enormous emotional and financial strain on young families at a vulnerable time. Patient and family education is an important part of successful coping.
Diagnosing Congenital Heart Disease:
This is usually made by a pediatric cardiologist. Taking a medical history and performing a physical exam will be very important. He or she may also order an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), chest X-ray or an echocardiogram (ultrasound movie of the heart).
At Afriglobal Medicare we are able to offer these investigations to support the diagnosis of CHD with our professionals and world class equipment. If you have need of such tests, request that your baby’s cardiologist refer your child to us for quality service.