is congenital heart disease?
Congenital means present at birth. A congenital
heart disease occurs when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, do not
develop properly before birth.
Around 500 600 babies are born with congenital
heart defects in Ireland every year. In most cases, it is unknown why they occur.
Congenital heart disease can also be referred to
as congenital cardiovascular disease or a congenital heart defect.
happens if there is a congenital heart disease?
If a person has congenital heart disease, one of
three things will normally happen:
- The defect will obstruct the flow of blood in
the heart (or vessels near the heart).
- The defect will cause the blood to flow through
the heart in an abnormal pattern.
- In some rare cases, the left or right side of
the heart doesn't develop properly.
is the difference between cyanotic and acyanotic heart defects?
With cyanotic (blue) heart defects, the blood that
is pumped around the body contains less-than-normal levels of oxygen. This causes
the skin to appear bluish in colour, a condition known as cyanosis.
The most common type of cyanotic heart defect is
termed tetralogy of Fallot (see diagram). This can result in for example, stenosis
(narrowing) at or just beneath the pulmonary valve. This narrowing partially
blocks the flow of blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs.
As a result of this condition, cyanosis may appear
soon after birth, in infancy or later in childhood. In some children, the cyanosis
may become severe, resulting in rapid breathing and possibly even unconsciousness.
Most children with this condition have open-heart
surgery before they start going to school.
Acyanotic (pink) heart defects do not generally
cause the infant or child to go blue. An example is coarctation of the aorta.
The aorta is the main artery responsible for carrying blood from the heart to
the rest of the body. Coarctation results in the aorta being constricted or
pinched. This obstructs the blood flow mostly to the lower part of the body.
It also increases blood pressure above the constriction.
With this condition symptoms usually do not show
at birth, however they can begin to emerge as soon as a week after birth. A
child with severe coarctation should have surgery in early childhood, after
which, long-term follow up is necessary.
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