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Health Information For Parents
A heart defect is a problem in the heart’s structure. Kids who have a heart defect were born with it. Heart defects are often called “congenital,” which means “present at birth.” Heart defects are also sometimes referred to as “congenital heart disease.”
Heart defects can range from mild to severe.
Types of congenital heart defects include:
Children with minor heart defects may not need any treatment. But some babies have serious symptoms that need medical or surgical treatment within the first year of life. They’ll be cared for by:
Procedures done through cardiac catheterization — such as balloon angioplasty or valvuloplasty — can widen an obstructed blood vessel or valve. Another procedure, transcatheter device occlusion, can close abnormal openings or holes within the heart or blood vessels without surgery.
Some problems, such as small- or moderate-sized ventricular septal defects, may close or get smaller as a child grows. While waiting for the hole to close, the child might have to take medicines.
Complex defects found early might need a series of operations that are finished when a child is about 3 years old.
Kids treated for a defect (surgically or medically) will need regular visits with a pediatric cardiologist. At first, these visits might happen often — perhaps every month or two. Later, they might be cut back, sometimes to just once a year.
The cardiologist may use tools like X-rays, electrocardiograms (ECGs), or echocardiograms to watch the defect and the effects of treatment.
Some physical activities might be limited, but kids can still play and explore with friends. Always check with the cardiologist about which activities are OK for your child and which to avoid. Some competitive sports could be off limits, for example.
Infective (or bacterial) endocarditis is an infection of the tissue that lines the heart and blood vessels. Kids with heart defects used to get
before procedures that could let
get into the bloodstream, such as:
But now, preventive antibiotics are given only to some children with heart defects. This includes those who:
The cardiologist will know the latest guidelines, and can advise you based on your child’s diagnosis.
Kids with heart defects should take good care of their teeth. They should brush and floss daily, and have regular dental visits and cleanings as often as the dentist recommends.
Most heart defects are now treated during infancy. So when your child is old enough to understand, explain what happened. Talk about why your child:
Describe the treatment in a way your child can understand.
It can be tempting to be very protective. But help your child lead as normal a life as possible. Talk with your cardiologist or the care team about safe ways to do this. They are there to support your child and the whole family.
It also can help to look for local and online support groups. This can connect you to other families who can share what works for them.
As kids get older, it’s important to help them learn how to take charge of their medical care. A younger teen could fill a prescription or schedule an appointment. Older teens should understand health insurance coverage and know how to access their medical records.
Help an older teen move from a pediatric cardiologist to one who cares for adults. He or she should play an active role in choosing the new doctor. Encourage your child to make appointments, ask questions and take notes, and set aside time to speak with the doctor alone.
To prepare for adulthood and manage their health care, teens should know:
Atrial septal defect (ASD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a type of congenital heart defect. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
Ventricular septal defect (VSD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a congenital heart defect. Most VSDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is a combination of problems caused by a birth defect that changes the way blood flows through the heart.
This minimally invasive procedure helps doctors performÂ diagnostic tests on the heart and even treat some heart conditions.
Coarctation of the aorta (COA) is a narrowing of the aorta, the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body.
Aortic stenosis means the aortic valve is too small, narrow, or stiff. Many people have no symptoms, but kids with more severe cases will need surgery so that blood flows properly through the body.
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect of a babyâs heart. The left side of the heart doesnât grow as it should, making it smaller and weaker than normal.
The foramen ovale is a normal opening between the upper two chambers of an unborn babyâs heart. It usually closes soon after the babyâs birth â when it doesn’t, it’s called a patent foramen ovale.
Tricuspid atresia is a congenital heart defect. A baby born with tricuspid atresia often has serious symptoms soon after birth because blood flow to the lungs is much less than normal.
What teachers should know about congenital heart defects, and what they can do to help students with the condition succeed in school.
Truncus arteriosus is a heart defect that happens when a child is born with one large artery instead of two separate arteries.
An interrupted aortic arch (IAA) is a rare heart condition in which the aorta doesnât form completely. Surgery must be done within the first few days of a babyâs life to close the gap in the aorta.
Heart murmurs are very common, and most are no cause for concern and won’t affect a child’s health.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heartbeats usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a significant health threat, but others can indicate a more serious problem.
Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, mainly affects older people. Find out more in this article for kids.
Getting an EKG doesn’t hurt and it gives doctors important info about how your heart is beating. Watch what happens in this video for kids.
Everyone’s heart makes sounds, but some people have hearts that make more noise than others. Usually, however, these heart murmurs don’t mean anything is wrong. Find out more about these mysterious murmurs.
When someone has coarctation of the aorta, that person’s aorta (the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body) is narrowed at some point.
Atrial septal defect, or ASD, is a heart defect that some people are born with. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications.
Ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a heart condition that a few teens can have. Find out what it is, how it happens, and what doctors do to correct it.
Doctors use cardiac catheterization to gather information about the heart and blood vessels as well as treat certain heart conditions. Find out what’s involved.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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