A hole in the heart is a type of a defect that a baby is born with. In India this is normally referred to as “Dil Mein Ched”.
During pregnancy when the foetus is developing, there are many holes in the developing heart of the foetus which normally close on their own. Sometimes when this does not happen, the baby is born with a hole in the heart.
A hole in the heart is a type of a congenital heart defect. There are many more types of types of defects such as Tetralogy of Fallot, Pulmonary Valve Stenosis, and many more.
In most cases a timely hole in the heart treatment gives the child the chance to live a near normal life.
Hole in the heart: Overview
As mentioned above, a hole in the heart literally means a hole in the structure of the heart. A normal human heart has 4 chambers or sections. Two chambers are on the top and called the left atrium right atrium respectively.
The other two chambers are below called the left and right ventricles. Oxygen poor blood from the body enters the right atrium and is then pumped into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps this oxygen poor blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery.
The lungs fill this blood with oxygen, and this is then pumped into the left atrium through the pulmonary veins. This blood is then pumped into the left ventricle. The left ventricle pumps the oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body.
A hole in the heart usually refers to a hole in walls that separate these chambers. If the hole is in the wall that separates the upper chambers it is called the Atrial Septal Defect and if it is in the lower chambers, it is called the Ventricle Septal Defect.
Hole in the Heart: Key Symptoms:
The symptoms of a hole in the heart may sometimes become evident either at or right after birth. In some cases, the symptoms may not present themselves till much later.
Usually, the larger the hole and the more severe it is, the sooner the symptoms are likely to appear. Broadly speaking, the symptoms of an untreated hole in the heart include:
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Difficulty in feeding
- Difficulty in breathing
- A murmur in the heart
- Difficulty beathing while exercising or other physical work.
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Slower growth
If the child shows any of the symptoms, one should at once visit a pediatric cardiologist. The most common screening test to look for a hole in the heart is an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is test that scans the structure and functioning of the heart.
Hole in the Heart Treatment
The treatment for a hole in the heart depends on the size of the hole, its location, the age of the child and the severity of the symptoms. In cases where the hole is not too large or critical, no treatment may be required, and the hole will close on its own.
In other cases, the pediatric cardiologist may recommend medications to manage the symptoms of the hole in the heart. The medications such as anti-arrhythmics and blood pressure drugs help in managing the symptoms. These are not used to treat the hole in the heart in isolation.
In cases where the hole is more critical, the child will need to go through a surgical or non-surgical intervention to close the hole. In a non-surgical closure a catheter (thin tube) is inserted through the groin to the heart.
Through this tube a device is used to close the hole. In the cases where the hole is large or more critical an open-heart surgery may be required.
With improvements in medical science, most children born with a hole in the heart can live near normal lives, given it is diagnosed on time and the child receives a timely hole in the heart treatment.
The causes for a hole in the heart
The exact causes for a hole in the heart are still not known. These are defects in the structure of a baby’s heart during foetal development. However, certain conditions are known to predispose a foetus to developing a hole in the heart. Some of these are:
- Genetic Factors: certain genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome or Turner’s Syndrome are known to be linked to a hole in the heart. Such type of genetic conditions can use the foetus to develop a hole in the heart.
- Exposure of the mother to Certain Viruses: Exposure of the mother during pregnancy to certain viruses such as Rubella or Measles can lead to the foetus developing of a hole in the heart. Hence it is important to ensure that the pregnant mother is protected from these viruses and if required vaccinated for the same.
- Exposure to alcohol and smoking: Consumption of alcohol and smoking during pregnancy can cause the foetus to develop a hole in the heart.
- Exposure to Medication: consumption of certain medicines by the pregnant mother can lead to the baby developing a hole in the heart. These medicines include the one used to treat epilepsy and some medicines used to treat dermalogical conditions and contain Isotronins
- Hereditary: a family history of congenital heart defects can predispose the child to developing a hole in the heart. In case there is a family history, then it is important to mention to the gynaecologist and get the recommended scans to ensure that the baby’s heart is developing fine.
As mentioned above, most children born with a hole in the heart can live near normal lives. It is important to get the right hole in the heart treatment. It is even more critical to remain in touch with a credible pediatric cardiologist to ensure that the child is developing well and that there are no complications.
To find or more about congenital heart defects visit genesis-foundation. Genesis Foundation is a nongovernmental organisation that facilities the medical treatment of underprivileged children born with congenital heart defects.