Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Congenital Heart Defect Treatment?
Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital offers multiple diagnostic methods and treatment approaches for congenital heart defects, depending on the type, as well as on the severity of the condition. Patients suffering from congenital heart defects can opt for surgical or catheter procedures under the guidance of well-trained doctors and specialists at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital.
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are structural problems in the heart that are present from birth. These defects may occur in the inner walls of the heart, in the heart valves, or in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. CHDs can alter the normal blood flow through the heart and can range from simple defects to more complex, serious, and life-threatening conditions. There are several types of congenital heart defects, most of which show no signs or symptoms. For this reason, most often CHDs are not diagnosed early in life. About eight out of 1000 newborns are affected by CHD. In the US, more than 35,000 infants are born with CHD each year. More than one million adults are living with CHD, thanks to great advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of even the most complex heart defects in recent years. The treatment for CHD is decided based on the type of defect, its severity, the child’s age, and general health condition. Most children with CHD do not require any treatment.
Surgical Procedures Used to Treat Congenital Heart Defects at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital
If a child’s congenital heart defect cannot be repaired with a catheter procedure, open-heart surgery may be advised. In some cases, one surgical procedure will be sufficient to get rid of the defect, but in a few children, subsequent surgeries are needed to correct the defect. Open heart surgery is used to treat the following conditions:
- To close the holes present in the heart using a patch
- To replace or repair heart valves
- To widen the arteries or openings to the heart valves
- To get rid of complex defects, for example, the location of blood vessels close to the heart
Minimally invasive heart surgery can be used to correct some congenital heart defects, such as holes in the heart. During a minimally invasive procedure, surgeons gain access to the heart through tiny holes made in between the ribs.
Drugs and Other Treatments for Congenital Heart Defects
Based on the type of heart defect, cardiologists will advise the following treatment methods:
Catheter Procedures »
Congenital heart defects are classified into several types, ranging from simple defects such as a hole in the septum that separates the left and right side of the heart, to more complex problems that affect the location of blood vessels of the heart.
Ductus Arteriosus »
Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects
Most CHDs show no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do arise, they depend on the number, type, and severity of the defect(s).
Severe heart defects may cause signs and symptoms in newborn infants, which include:
- Bluish discoloration of the skin, lips, and fingernails (cyanosis)
- Tiredness while feeding
- Reduced weight gain
- Breathing at a faster pace
- Poor or sluggish blood circulation
- Heart murmur or an unusual sound that can be heard along with a heartbeat, using a stethoscope
Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Defects
Severe CHDs are usually detected during pregnancy or soon after delivery. Mild defects go unnoticed until children grow older, due to the fact that they show no signs or symptoms. These defects are often diagnosed on the basis of the results of physical examination and tests performed for other conditions.
Physical Examination: A doctor will listen to a child’s heartbeat and breath sounds using a stethoscope and will also check whether there are signs of heart defects, such as cyanosis, troubled or fast breathing, or a delay in growth and development.
Echocardiography (Echo): This painless test uses sound waves (ultrasound) that strike the heart, which is then converted into an image of the heart with the help of a computer. This image can reveal if there are any problems with the structure and functions of the heart. During pregnancy, a fetal echo can be performed around 18-22 weeks of gestation to check if the baby has a CHD.
Electrocardiogram (EKG): This painless test records the strength and timing of the heart's electrical signals. It shows heart rate and rhythm. An EKG can also detect the enlargement of the heart’s chambers and can help in diagnosing heart problems.
Chest X-Ray: This can reveal if there are conditions such as heart enlargement and fluid or blood accumulation within the lungs.
Pulse Oximetry: This test measures the amount of oxygen present in the blood through a small sensor that is attached to a patient's finger or toe.
Cardiac Catheterization: This procedure is done to check the oxygen level, as well as the pressure within the heart chambers and blood vessels. A thin, flexible tube is inserted into a vein in the arm, neck, or groin region, and then slowly threaded up to reach the heart. A specialized dye is then injected into a blood vessel or the heart chamber through the catheter. This dye helps the doctor differentiate between blood circulating in the heart and blood vessels on an X-ray image. This test is used to check whether the blood between the two sides of the heart is getting mixed.
Risk Factors for Congenital Heart Defects
Most CHDs occur as a result of problems during a baby's development. There are certain environmental and genetic risk factors that influence the development of CHD, including:
- German Measles or Rubella: Developing a rubella infection during pregnancy may lead to problems in the development of a baby’s heart.
- Diabetes: The development of the fetal heart is affected by this chronic condition. The risk of CHD can be lowered by careful monitoring and control of diabetes before conception. However, gestational diabetes does not increase the risk of developing a CHD.
- Medications: Some medications can increase the risk of CHD if taken during pregnancy. For instance, thalidomide, isotretinoin, lithium, and anti-seizure medicines with valproate.
- Smoking and Alcohol Consumption: Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase a baby's likelihood of being born with CHD.
- Genetic Factors: Most children with genetic syndromes also have congenital heart defects, and it tends to run in families. For example, heart defects are common in patients with Down syndrome.
Causes of Congenital Heart Defects
The causes of CHDs in most infants are unknown. A mutation in the individual genes or chromosomes is the reason for heart defects in some infants. For instance, a parent with CHD is more likely to have a baby born with heart defects. Therefore, heredity plays a significant role in CHD. Environmental factors, such as the mother's health condition, diet, and use of medications have also been linked to the development of CHD. If health problems, such as pre-existing diabetes and obesity are present in the mother, there is a higher likelihood of CHD in the baby. Smoking during pregnancy is another factor linked with CHD and septal defects.
Alternative treatment methods are not widely used to treat heart conditions, as specific structural changes in the heart tend to require surgical repair. Always talk to your doctor before starting any alternative therapy. Often, doctors suggest complementary therapies, such as relaxation therapy or massage, which help minimize the symptoms and contribute to a patient's overall health. Some complementary therapies used to treat CHDs are:
- Aromatherapy: This involves the use of special kinds of scented substances, either placed on the skin or inhaled to lower pain and anxiety, and promote relaxation.
- Laughter/Humor Therapy: This encourages patients to laugh out loud, as laughing releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Humor relieves stress and makes people feel good by lowering blood pressure and boosting the body’s immune functions.
- Massage Therapy: Massage has several benefits, such as a reduction in heart rate, a decrease in blood pressure levels, increased blood supply and flow of lymph, muscle relaxation, improved range of motion, and increased release of endorphins.
- Nutrition Therapy: Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, folic acid, and coenzyme Q10 are effective in the prevention of birth defects, including heart conditions.
- Yoga: This therapeutic exercise helps relieve stress and boost fitness through a combination of breathing and flexibility exercises.
Although the exact cause for most CHDs remains unknown, there are some preventive measures that can lower a child’s risk of developing heart defects:
- Get vaccinated against rubella or German measles: It is safe to be vaccinated for rubella infection, as it can interfere with fetal heart development if the infection occurs during pregnancy.
- Manage chronic medical conditions: Diabetics should maintain their blood sugar levels in the normal range before conceiving to decrease the risk of heart defects. Patients who are epileptic and need regular medications should discuss the risk of taking drugs during pregnancy before conceiving.
- Avoid exposure to harmful substances: Avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Do not take any herbal remedies or dietary supplements without your doctor’s supervision.
- Take folic acid supplements: Daily intake of folic acid supplements during pregnancy decreases the risk of birth defects in the brain, spinal cord, and heart.
Are you concerned about congenital heart defects? Our specially trained cardiologists can answer questions and provide detailed information about CDH and its treatment.