Heart disease does not only occur in adults and the elderly, newborn babies and kids can also develop cardiac disease. Some congenital heart defects in children are simple and treatments are not necessarily required. Other congenital heart defects in children seem to be more complex and may require several surgeries performed over a period of several years. Serious congenital heart defects are often diagnosed before or soon after the child is born. If any signs and symptoms are noticed, parents must seek immediate medical attention in order to get accurate and timely diagnosis, leading to effective treatment plans.
The causes of heart disease in children
The causes of pediatric heart disease can be divided into 2 main categories:
During the first six weeks of pregnancy, the heart of the fetus begins taking shape and starts beating. The major blood vessels that reach to and run from the heart also begin to develop during this critical time of the gestation. At this point, the heart defects may begin to develop. Contributing factors might include genetics, certain medical conditions, some medications and environmental factors such as smoking. The statistical data reveals that the average incidence rate of congenital heart defects reported in different studies is up to 8 per 1000 live births. Serious congenital heart defects are often diagnosed before or soon after the baby is born. In some cases, heart defects are discovered during adulthood such as abnormal blood vessels, septal defects defined as holes in the heart that form in the walls between heart chambers and other complex heart conditions. If heart defects are left untreated and found in adult patients when the diseases progress severely, surgical treatment might not be an option. Nonetheless, certain congenital heart diseases are non-serious conditions e.g. small holes of septal defect and mild heart valve stenosis which occurs when the heart's valve narrows. In such non-serious conditions, medical treatments are not necessarily required. However, lifestyle modifications to prevent other complications are crucially recommended.
Pediatric acquired heart disease develops after birth. The common acquired heart diseases in children include:
Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease in children
Not only impaired growth and child development process, heart disease can also potentially result in some life-threatening complications. If these five warning signs and symptoms present, parents must seek urgent medical attention in order to get accurate and timely diagnostic tests, leading to appropriate and effective treatment with the best possible outcomes. Five warning signs that might indicate heart disease include:
Apart from these manifestations, children with heart defects, especially heart failure might present breathing troubles, poor feeding, limited growths e.g. height and body weight as well as impaired child developments, compared to normal children in similar age.
Congenital heart defects may have no long-term effects on child's health. In some instances, such defects can safely go untreated. Only close monitoring is required. Some heart defects in children, however, are more serious and treatments are essentially needed soon after they are diagnosed. Annual health check-up is highly recommended. If abnormal signs or symptoms exhibit, immediate medical attention must be urgently provided by well-trained and highly experienced pediatric cardiologists in order to receive timely and effective treatments.
Dr. Apichai Khongphatthanayothin
Pediatric cardiologist, Bangkok Heart Hospital.