This is the story of my son Aaron who was born with a congenital heart defect. This slideshow was created as a way teach you a little bit about congenital heart defects.
When Aaron was born he had trouble breathing, he had classic symptoms of “blue baby syndrome” which is when there is a lack of oxygen to the body. His fingers and hands were blue. They took him into intensive care and told me that he appeared to have a congenital heart defect.
What is a congenital heart defect? It is one of the most common of all birth defects. 1 out of every 125 births results in a congenital heart defect and 40,000 babies are born each year with a congenital heart defect.
The heart is a very complex vessel. There are 4 chambers, two lower and two upper. The upper chambers are called the Atrium and the lower chambers are called the ventricles.
The heart also consists of 4 valves, they are the pulmonary valve, tricuspid valve, mitral valve and aortic valve. Each one of these valves act like a swinging door, that opens and shuts in order to control the amount of blood that flows in and out of each side of the heart.
The right side of the heart receives oxygen poor blood from the veins all over the body. It then pumps the blood to the lungs to become reoxygenated. This oxygen rich blood feeds the rest of the body and the cycle begins again.
Aaron was diagnosed with a heart mumur. This occurs when one of the heart valves does not work properly. The majority of heart murmurs are diagnosed as “innocent” meaning that they will not require surgery to repair. An innocent murmur is monitored by a cardiologist and a child will eventually outgrow this defect. Aaron’s heart murmur was not innocent. This would mean that he would eventually need surgery to repair his valve. His murmur dealt with his pulmonary valve, the medical term known as a “pulmonary valve stenosis.” This is where the valve that leads into the pulmonary artery is deformed.
Aaron was also diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect or a VSD. This defect occurs in the lower chamber of the heart. The walls of the heart do not close properly and a hole is formed. When there is a hole that is formed in the upper chamber of the heart it is known as a AtrialSeptal defect or an ASD.
The third thing that Aaron was diagnosed with is called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Aaron was lucky as his case was mild. This usually occurs when there is another defect such as a pulmonary valve stenosis that makes one side of the heart work harder than the other thus causing muscle thickening to occur.
Aarons diagnosis was made through the use of an EKG and an Ecocardiogram. These are the two major components that are used by cardiogists to diagnose heart defects.
These machines are used to measure the blood flow in and out of the heart and look for irregular heart beat.
There is really no cut and dry answer as to why congenital heart defects occur. Some factors can impact the occurrence of congenital heart defects such as; drugs, parental age, diseases like rubella or PKU and chemicals or toxins to which the mother was exposed to while pregnant.
Genetic abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, turner syndrome, trisomy or Noonan syndrome are often characterized by several different types of congenital heart defects as well.
Genetic defects occur throughautosomal or recessive dominance. In autosomal dominance one parent is also effected and carries the gene for the abnormality. The affected parent has a 50 percent chance of passing the gene on to his or her child.
Aaron had 3 surgeries starting at 4 months to try and repair his heart valve. Two of the surgeries consisted of a cardiac catherization. This procedure is performed in a cath lab.
It is similar to a balloon angioplasty in that a balloon is inserted up the patient’s leg and into the heart. The balloon was used as a way to open up Aarons valve to try and get it to work properly again.
When these two procedures were not successful, at 11 months Aaron had open heart surgery. In this surgery he had a patch put over his Ventricular Septal Defect and his pulmonary valve was repaired. Even though this sounds like a lot to have to deal with for my family, Aaron is actually very lucky. There are other congenital heart defects that are much more severe and require extensive surgery to repair.
One such defect is called Tetrology of Fallot. This defect is characterized by 4 (fallot) abnormalities; Ventricular Septal defect, pulmonary valve stenosis, an enlarged aorta and right ventricular hypertrophy.
Two more serious defects are Antrioventricular canal defect which is characterized by a hole in the center of the heart and Ebstein’s abnormality, which is characterized by a deformed tricuspid valve and enlarged atrium.
Aaron will have to have several more surgeries to repair his valve as he gets older and valve outgrows the valve repair. For now he is adjusting well to his surgeries and is a happy healthy 5 year old. Thank you for taking the time to watch my presentation. I hope this helped you to learn a bit about congenital heart defects.